The New York Islanders and their fans have many reasons to be excited about the prospect of Ilya Sorokin playing for the Islanders. Here’s one of the less obvious reason to be excited though: the Isles may have finally gotten their goalie-drafting right.
The Islanders do not frequently draft goalies, and perhaps that’s for the better. Last decade, they drafted a total of six goalies including Sorokin. The other five were: Cody Rosen (2010); Stephon Williams (2013); Eamon McAdam (2013); Linus Soderstrom (2014) and Jakub Skarek (2018). Do not worry if you have not heard of most of these goalies—you definitely are not alone.
Soderstrom and Skarek both spent this season playing for the Worcester Railers, the Isles’ ECHL affiliate. With a 4.49 GAA and a .870 SV% for Soderstrom and a 3.73 GAA and a .879 SV% for Skarek, it is fair to say that both were awful.
Meanwhile, McAdam and Williams are out of the Isles’ organization and Rosen is long out of professional hockey altogether. Rosen’s final season was in 2013-14 with the Knoxville Ice Bears of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Unsurprisingly, none of these players ever appeared in a game for the Islanders.
The previous decade, the Islanders were also pretty dismal at drafting goalies. You may remember their last three goalie draft picks of the decade, Kevin Poulin (2008), Anders Nilsson (2009), and Mikko Koskinen (2009), as they all spent some time with the Islanders. Nonetheless, these three combined to play just 77 largely unimpressive games with the Isles.
After their failed tenures on the Island, they all went to the KHL, and various other leagues, to revive their careers. Koskinen and Nilsson appear to have been the most successful in doing so, as both played decently in the NHL this season with the Oilers and Senators, respectively. Regardless, neither of these three goalies are likely to play for the Islanders again.
Earlier in the decade, the Isles had a who’s who of goalie draft busts. Perhaps it is best for you to shield your eyes from this list of busts of: Jase Weslosky (2006); Stefan Ridderwall (2006); Sylvain Michaud (2004); Brad Topping (2002); Dusan Salficky (2001) and Andy Chiodo (2001). Chiodo managed to play eight games with the Penguins; the others never made it to the NHL. You get the point.
Finally, of course, I would be remiss to not mention the remaining goalie draft pick of the decade: Rick DiPietro (2000). That’s a whole different story, but I will summarize with his career highlights. He was taken first in the draft over Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik. He was just okay in his first few seasons, but managed to sign a 15-year contract. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just 50 games over the last five seasons of his career, and he was out of the NHL after 2012-13. The worst part is that thanks to his contract buyout, he is still getting paid $1.5 million each year until 2029.
DiPietro isn’t just one of the Isles’ biggest draft busts, he is one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history.
Essentially, it’s been a long time since the Islanders have had any luck in drafting a goalie. Sure they took Roberto Luongo in 1997, but they foolishly traded him to the Panthers after just one season.
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That is why the Sorokin pick has the potential to be so important for the Islanders. His dominance in the KHL has been no secret. Of course, he is still yet to sign a contract with the Isles, and even if he does, there is no telling if his success would translate to the NHL. Regardless, Isles fans can dream, and should those dreams come true, all those busts of yesteryear will be quickly forgotten.