Ruslan Iskhakov, drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft by the New York Islanders is turning into one of the best players in UConn’s history.
The 2018 draft was a big one for the New York Islanders. In the first two rounds, they stepped up to the podium four times. They had their own picks in the first two rounds and Calgary’s pick in the first two rounds on account of the Travis Hamonic trade.
In the first round, the Islanders took forward Oliver Wahlstrom (who is now in the AHL) with the eleventh overall pick and with 12th overall pick, they took defenseman Noah Dobson who’s already in the NHL.
In the second round, the Islanders took projected first-round talent Bode Wilde at 41 and then two picks later the Isles took forward Ruslan Iskhakov.
We know of the quality that Wahlstrom, Dobson, and Wilde have. But we don’t often hear about Iskhakov who’s playing for the University of Connecticut in the Hockey East Division of the NCAA.
Now in his second year with the Huskies, Iskhakov is already being talked about as having the potential to be one of the best in the program.
What Are They Saying?
That’s big praise for a kid who’s only played a season and a half in the program. So why is he being touted as having the ability to be one of the best in the program’s history?
Because not only does he put up points, but Iskhakov is playing a complete game, including being a physical force on the ice.
You wouldn’t expect that type of talk for a player who measures 5’8″ and weighs under 160lbs. But UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh explains that, despite his size, Iskhakov is a physical player and a good one at that.
"“Physicality isn’t just hitting a guy through the boards. It’s competing for pucks one on one and Ruslan does that as well as anybody,” Cavanaugh said. “When you watch him go in for a puck battle, he goes in hard. I think a lot of times (people) think physicality is Zdeno Chara or Scott Stevens with big open-ice hits but it’s how hard you go in to win a puck battle. Do you play on the inside? Are you going to the net? Getting position on a defender and staying in front of the net and taking a wack at a rebound? I think Ruslan did that really well.”"
Iskakov is a talented individual forward. In his draft year, he scored 30 points in 33 games in the Russian MHL. The MHL is the Russian junior hockey league. Some have even compared Iskhakov’s talent with the puck to that of fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk.
But because of his small size, there were (and still are) clear concerns about his ability to keep up physically in North America. Clearly, Iskhakov is adapting well to the North American game by learning and excelling at the physical aspects.
That physicality along with his undeniable offensive skill is why coach Cavanaugh believes Iskhakov could be one of the best players in the program’s history.
"“(Letunov and Thompson are) two of the better players that we’ve had,” Cavanaugh said. “I think when it’s all said and done, Ruslan can probably be in that conversation as well.”"
Best Draft In Years
The verdict is still out if Iskhakov can put all of that together and become an impact player at the NHL level. We’ve seen players dominate at the NCAA but have a tough time in the higher caliber leagues.
What is clear is that he is yet another incredibly talented player with incredible potential drafted by the Islanders in the 2018 draft.