The New York Islanders haven’t had a bonafide NHL starter for decades. With what they have in the system they just might have one.
Ever since the apparent mistake of giving Rick DiPietro a 15-year contract, the New York Islanders have had many stop-gap goaltenders. Even with some flashes of brilliance in the mid-2000s, DiPietro could never stay healthy and would not make good on that 15-year contract.
The 2010-2011 season alone saw the Islanders play six different goalies including DiPietro. Goalies like Roloson, Halak, Nabakov, and others have tried with mixed results to solidify this crucial position.
Fixing this flaw between the pipes is critical to the New York Islanders returning to prominence.
Their Current Situation
The current goalie tandem of Thomas Griess and Robin Lehner have shown a slight improvement in play. Griess in particular who is coming off his worst season in the NHL posting a record of 13-8-3. The Backup to Halak that year his 3.82 goals-against average and .892 save percentage were abysmal.
This year Griess has shown improvement beating out Lehner for the majority of the starts this year posting a 12-7-1 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. Lehner has been just as good with a 6-6-3 record with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.
These goalies aren’t the only reason for this team’s current success. Good defense has propped up this teams play in 2018-19. The Islanders 2017-2018 season proved that you could score all the goals in the world and that still doesn’t help much if you can’t keep the puck out of the net.
Even with those numbers you can’t say that the Islanders can win a championship on the backs of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner. If you look at Stanley Cup winning teams, from 2009 to 2017, you find that they had a combined .920 save percentage. The highest of which was the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins at .932. Impressive!
It’s such an important stat, and only a few percentage points could torpedo the whole business. The Islanders need a guy between the pipes that can single-handedly carry a team to success.
Let’s look to the future
The New York Islanders have three goalie prospects that have potential to find jobs in the coming years.
First of which is Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin, 23, is currently playing with CSKA Moscow in Russia’s answer to the NHL the KHL. His stats are otherworldly, posting a career record of 101-54-18 with a 1.89 goals-against average, and a .929 save percentage. You take these numbers with a grain of salt because Sorokin has yet to prove it in the NHL. His contract in Russia also runs through 2020, so he won’t be able to show his worth till then.
The second prospect is a Swedish netminder named Linus Soderstrom. Soderstrom, 22, is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury in what is supposed to be his first season playing in the states.
Soderstrom played two seasons in Sweden’s highest hockey league the SHL for HV71 Jonkoping. Winning the league championship title with HV71 in 2016-2017 Soderstrom has posted a career record of 26-10, with a 2.06 goals-against average and a 0.918 save percentage.
Soderstrom, however, he has shown flashes of brilliance in his 2016-2017 HV71 championship year and strong world junior play against his peers. The shoulder injury this year has also hurt his growth.
The third prospect is a Czech goalie named Jakub Skarek drafted 72nd overall in this past year’s draft. He plays in Finland’s top hockey league the SM-Liiga with the Pelicans. Skarek is the youngest of the three and has the least amount of playing time in his career so far.
In his draft year playing in the top Czech league, he posted a 9-12 record with a 2.41 goal against average and a .912 save percentage. This year in Finland his numbers are slightly better at 5-5-6 with a 2.02 goals-against average, and a .920 save percentage. Skarek is the least seasoned of the three he needs several more seasons playing at a competitive level to see what they have with him.
New York Islanders Future Plans
Can one of these three prospects be the answer in net for the Islanders? Only time will tell, but management has worked to provide a potential solution through the draft.
Free agency has goalies like Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard, all available. Bobrovsky is the name that I think will be most appealing but who knows if Lou is willing to give him a contract in the six or seven-year territory with a high average annual value.
It’s difficult to project the success of goalies when drafted. Usually, it takes two or three years longer for goalies to develop than say forwards or defensemen. If it were up to me, I’d go after Bobrovsky. He has proven to be a legitimate starter in this league he has two Vezina, and this staff with Mitch Korn as the center of goalie operations would be perfect for him.
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Of the prospects, Sorokin has the best shot his numbers are excellent, and he’ll hopefully come over after 2020. He’ll be twenty-five so that’s not old by any measure all he has to do is prove that he can play at the NHL level.