Islanders: Ilya Sorokin Rookie Season Predictions

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

With Ilya Sorokin signed for next year, let’s take a look at what we can see him do in the 2020-2021 season.

This week was a huge sigh of relief for the Islanders. Not only did they lock in Ilya Sorokin for an ELC this year they signed him to a one-year extension for next year as well. Sorokin won’t be able to play in the RTP but he will absolutely be a part of this team in 2020-2021.

Unfortunately, that likely means an end to the Thomas Greiss era in New York, which is going to be tough, but it’s certainly exciting to see what the Russian phenom has in store.

In all likelihood, the Isles are going to have a goalie tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin for next year, so what I wanted to do was look at what the plan in net could be and what we can expect from both of the goalies.

If you look at what Barry Trotz has done over the last two years, he’s essentially run a 1A and 1B goalie system. In 2018-2019, Lehner started 52 percent of games while Greiss got 48 percent. This year, Varly had a slight edge of 58 percent while Greiss started 42 percent.

The last time Varlamov started more than 50 games (61 percent of starts) was 2015-2016, four seasons ago. I would be stunned, even with a rookie goalie as the “backup” if he started 50 or more games in 2020-2021.

Again, I think Trotz will implement a 1A and 1B system playing the hot hand, which has worked for this team over the last two seasons. Varlamov was on pace to start 48 games this year and I think that’s where we’ll see him again next year.

That would leave Sorokin with somewhere around 34 starts in his rookie year. Mitch Korn is known for his success molding goalies into elite starters, so I wanted to see how rookie goalies were able to perform under his watch.

The best example is Pekka Rinne, who started 49 games in his rookie year in 2008-2009, finished fourth in Calder voting with a .917 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average. He finished 10th in save percentage and seventh in goals against average in terms of goalies who started at minimum 20 games.

I also wanted to look at Braden Holtby, I know he wasn’t a rookie when Mitch Korn joined Barry Trotz there in 2014-2015, but his stats did dramatically increase as a 25-year old (the same age as Ilya Sorokin).

Holtby the two years prior started 35 and 45 games putting up a .920 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average and a .915 save percentage and a 2.85 goals against average. Both years are solid for sure but he went to the next level with Mitch Korn by his side.

He started 72 games that year and put up a .923 save percentage and a 2.22 goals against average finishing fourth in Vezina voting. He’d win the Vezina the following year and finish second in 2017.

In the three years that Korn and Holtby worked together, he won a Vezina, finished top-four two other times, and averaged a .923 save percentage and a 2.16 goals against average. Truly, impressive numbers.

Considering Korn’s track record and Sorokin’s pure talent, he averaged a .938 save percentage and a 1.38 goals against average in the KHL over the last five years, the combination could be absolutely deadly.

A few months ago, I looked at goalies who came over from Russia and what they were able to do in their first year. Between Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Samsonov, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Andrei Vasilevskiy they averaged a .920 save percentage and a 2.51 goals against average in their rookie year.

My original production for Sorokin was 35 starts a .918 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average, but am I sleeping too much on the Mitch Korn effect?

Could we see a .923 save percentage a 2.40 goals against average? I mean would that really shock anyone? I might’ve lowballed Sorokin on my first prediction but I’m not sure if I’m ready to go up that high just yet.

I think I’ll go with a .920 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average. That kind of play should force the Islanders to give him a long-term extension and from there make him the starting goalie.

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The ceiling is extremely high for this kid, and expectations are going to be high even as a rookie. I can’t wait to watch him in the crease for this team.