The New York Islanders drafted Ilya Sorokin in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Despite putting up fantastic numbers, history says Sorokin will likely not play in the NHL.
Goalie has been a position of need for the New York Islanders for what feels like forever. They’ve lacked that franchise goaltender, despite having okay band-aid fixes along the way. When Ilya Sorokin and Linus Soderstrom were taken in 2014 the hope was that the Islanders found their long-term netminder.
Sorokin has put up better numbers between the two. He’s never had a goals against average higher than 1.61 and a save percentage lower than .929. Despite his impressive numbers history says Sorokin will never play in the NHL.
Since the year 2000, only five Russian Goalies who were drafted have played in the NHL. In the past 18 years of drafts, only five have played at the highest level in North America.
Andrei Vasilevsky: 2012 Round 1 Pick 19
Tampa Bay’s starting netminder was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft from Russia. After he was drafted he too played in the KHL, just like Sorokin has. In his first year in the K, Vasilevsky had a .924 save percentage and a 2.22 goals against average in eight games.
He followed that up with a .923 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average in 2013-2014 before making the trip over to North America to play with Tampa and of course their AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch.
After backing up Ben Bishop for two years, Tampa finally decided to move on from Bishop and give Vasilevsky the starting role. In 2016-2017 he had a .917 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average and then this year his save percentage went up to .921 while his goals against average was 2.62.
He’s the most recent Russian goalie drafted, to play in the NHL. The main difference here between Vasilecsky and Sorokin is what round they were taken. Andrei was a first-round selection so Tampa must’ve felt confident that he’d come over eventually, which he did just two years after being selected. The Isles are now on four years since Sorokin was picked.
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Alexander Pechursky: 2008 Round 5 Pick 150
Alexander Pechursky was drafted by the Penguins in 2008. He played just one game in his NHL career but he still counts for this list. Pechursky had a 1.67 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in the one game he did play with Pittsburgh back in 2009-2010 but he’d never play in the NHL, or AHL again.
The following year Pechursky went back to the SHL before heading back to the KHL. This past year Pechursky played in the VHL putting up a .910 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average.
Semyon Varlamov: 2006 Round 1 Pick 23
The Washington Capitals selected Varlamov in the first round back in 2006. He played parts of three seasons with the Capitals from 2008-2011. When his rights were traded to Colorado in 2011 Varlamov had this to say about his time with the Capitals:
"“[If I weren’t traded] I think, I’d come back to the KHL,” he said. “I can’t say anything bad about the Capitals but it was time to change things. I was mentally tired after these three years.”"
This kind of reminds me of the Sorokin rumors that came out just last week about him not wanting to play with the Islanders if Garth Snow is still there.
Varlamov has turned into a decent NHL starter in Colorado. His career save percentage is .916 with a goals against average of 2.65. In his short, 16 game stint with the KHL Varlamov put up a .946 save percentage and a 1.74 goals against average. Similar numbers to Sorokin at the KHL level over the past three years.
Anton Khudobin: 2004 Round 7 Pick 206
Khudobin was a very late round draft pick by the Minnesota Wild in 2004. He played just six games with Minnesota in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 before he went on to play with Boston. He joined the NHL five years after he was selected.
Khudobin jumped around from Russia to the WHL, ECHL, and AHL before finally getting his chance at the NHL level.
Khudobin played a career high of 36 games with Carolina back in 2013-2014. That year he had a .926 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average. He served as a backup with Boston this past year playing in 21 games.
He was serviceable with a .913 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average. For a seventh-round draft selection, he’s developed into a decent journeyman backup at the NHL level.
Ilya Bryzgalov: 2000 Round 2 Pick 44
Bryzgalov was taken in the second round by Anaheim back in 2000. The year after he was drafted Bryzgalov put up a .912 save percentage and a 1.77 goals against average. The following year he went to the AHL affiliate and even started one game with the Ducks.
He’d play one more game in the 2003-2004 season before getting a bigger role in 2005-2006. His first “full” season Bryzgalov had a .910 save percentage and a 2.49 goals against average.
Eventually, he would be moved to Phoenix where his career took off a starter. His best year was in 2009-2010 when he put up a .920 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average. He was the goalie the last time the Coyotes were in the playoffs, and he notoriously was not a very good playoff performer.
Oddly enough, he would get one more crack at the playoffs in 2013-2014 with Minnesota but he was pretty ineffective with a 3-6 record and a .885 save percentage.
The point here, the only Russian goalies that turned into long-term starters at the NHL level drafted since 2000 were taken in the first two rounds. They also came over to North America rather quickly something Sorokin will not do.
If I had to bet on it, Sorokin will never play in the NHL. Sure, his KHL numbers are likely better than all five of these guys, but unlike this list, he will likely play his entire career in the K.