Goaltending has been the Achilles heel of this New York Islander franchise ever since the Rick DiPietro debacle. Things have started to turn a corner in net over the last few years, but the players that have manned the net have only been short-term solutions.
But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to goaltending prospects in the Islanders’ system. Back in 2014, the Islanders selected 18-year old netminder Ilya Sorokin 78th overall, a top goaltending prospect from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia
While Sorokin is Islanders’ property in North America, he has remained in Russia with CSKA Moscow. However, the expectation is that the talented Russian will head to the United States to play in the NHL soon.
This season in the KHL, Sorokin has been rather impressive, boasting a 26-10-3 record, with a goals-against-average of 1.50 and a save percentage of .935. He also shutout his opponents a league-leading nine times.
If you think these stats are impressive, his postseason numbers are even better. In four games, Sorokin went unbeaten, posting a 0.73 goals-against average and a .966 save percentage, registering two shutouts and two assists.
But those stats come with a caveat. The KHL, a top tier league, does not showcase the same talent level as the NHL, so it’s hard to say just how well his talent will translate to North America.
That being said, we can get an idea of how he will do based on the play of two rookie goaltenders who have made the jump from the KHL to the NHL already.
The first one Islander fans will get to know pretty well, and that is Igor Shesterkin, the starting netminder for the New York Rangers.
Shesterkin, along with Sorokin, dominated in his time in the KHL. In the 2018-19 campaign, his last season in Russia, Shesterkin posted a 1.11 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage in 28 games with St. Petersberg CKA.
Coming over to the US, Shesterkin started in the American Hockey League with the Hartford Wolfpack in order to give him time to adjust to the smaller ice surface.
In 25 games, he performed quite well, recording a 1.90 GAA and a .934 save percentage, before being called up to the NHL.
Shesterkin has become the number one goalie for the team, beating off Alexandar Georgiev and Henrik Lundqvist for the starting job as the Rangers were looking to sneak into the playoffs.
In a small sample size of 12 games, Shesterkin is 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. You may think the goals-against average is rather high for someone of his talent level, but the Rangers are eighth in the league in goals allowed (220) and second in shots against per game, allowing on average 34.
Another example to look at is Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov. While Samsonov may not play as strong as Shesterkin, he is still playing above expectations.
The 23-year old left the KHL after the 2017-18 season in which he posted a 2.31 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 26 games.
After playing a year with the Hershey Bears of the AHL last season, Samsonov made his debut in the NHL and has boasted a 16-6-0 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. Being on one of the best teams surely impacts those stats, but nevertheless, he has been solid and may be the reason goaltender Braden Holtby goes elsewhere come free agency.
Based on the two Russian netminders above, it seems like a positive reflection of the talent the KHL is producing. Since Sorokin’s statistics were more similar to that of Shesterkin’s it seems that the Islanders, barring any unforeseen circumstances, may have finally found their heir-apparent in net.
With Islanders’ netminder Thomas Greiss becoming an unrestricted free agent upon season’s end, his return is rather unlikely. This sets up for Sorokin making the jump to North America pretty seamlessly.
Sorokin may need time in the AHL with Bridgeport to adjust to the rink size and style of play, but it won’t be long before he would be up with the Islanders.