Islanders: Explaining why Ilya Sorokin’s arrival is a big deal

Ilya Sorokin #90 of the CSKA (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/ Getty Images)
Ilya Sorokin #90 of the CSKA (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/ Getty Images) /

New York Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin is coming to North America. But why are fans making such a big deal about the arrival of a former third-round pick from 2014?

New York Islanders fans have been waiting for years to see if Sorokin would actually leave Russia to come to North America and join the team the drafted him in the third round of the 2014 NHL draft. And on Sunday we found out he will in fact head to North America for the 2020-21 season.

The contract isn’t yet signed between the prized goalie prospect and the New York Islanders, but by all accounts, that’s nothing but a formality at this point. And Islanders fans are jubilant.

Fans have been waiting for a top-level starting goalie for years and now with Sorokin, it seems that they finally have one.

Waiting for a Starter

When was the last time the New York Islanders had a starter they could put out on the ice for 50-60 games a season for years? Rick DiPietro?

The Islanders got a good four years from Rick DiPietro with 50-63 games played each before injuries started to plague his career and end it way too early.

DiPietro’s last full season with the Isles was in 2007-08 when he started 63 games and held a 26-28-7 record with a 2.82GAA and 0.902SV%.

Between the 2008-09 and 2019-20 season, the Islanders rolled out 20 different goalies. The average for all 30 NHL teams (I’m not counting Vegas for obvious reasons) is 17 goalies. Six other clubs ran out 20 or more goalie in that same period. So running 20 goalies isn’t necessarily unique.

What is unique is how the Islanders haven’t had a single goalie own the crease for a consistent period of time. In the 12 years since Rick DiPietro last held the crease as a starter, the Isles have scrambled to find a long-term option between the pipes.

That baton was passed from DiPietro to Dwayne Roloson then to Evgeni Nabokov and then to Jaroslav Halak. But of all those goalies, Thomas Greiss holds the most games played for the Isles since 2008-09 with 193 games played.

Those 193 games played is also the lowest number of games played by a single goalie for all 30 teams in that period. (Again, I’m not counting Vegas.)

The Islanders haven’t had a goalie they could put out there for 50-60 games every season for years on end. They haven’t had a stable or consistent presence in net for, arguably, 12 years.

Any by all accounts, Sorokin can be that player for the New York Islanders. His video-game-like numbers over in the KHL are well known.

His 1.70 GAA and 0.930SV% in the regular season over 244 regular-season games from 2012-13 are incredible. When it comes to the NHL, Sorokin is said to be just as good as New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin according to Igor Eronko (subscription required).

In 2019-20 Shesterkin started in the AHL before jumping to the NHL. In 25 games at the AHL level, Shesterkin held a 17-4-3 record with a 1.90GAA and 0.934SV%. When he moved up to the NHL, Shesterkin went 10-2-0 and averaged a 2.52GAA and 0.932SV%.

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The New York Islanders have long needed a stable pair of pads in the crease. They’ve needed a goalie they could rely on not just for a season but for a number of years. With the 24-years-old Sorokin ready to come over, it seems we have that player. That’s why his arrival is such a big deal.