Islanders sign 2018 second round pick to ELC

2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament - Russia v USA
2018 Under-18 Five Nations Tournament - Russia v USA / Dave Reginek/GettyImages

Boy did the New York Islanders cut it uncomfortably close. They signed 2018 second-round pick Ruslan Iskhakov to a two-year Entry Level Contract on May 25th. The Islanders had until June 1 to sign Iskhakov to an NHL contract or they would lose his NHL rights.

And look I know that may not sound like a big deal, but for someone who follows the Islanders prospects as closely as I do, I really hoped the Isles would give this kid a chance in the North American pros. I wasn't 100% convinced they would.

New York Islanders sign 2018 second round pick to ELC

Keep in mind that Iskhakov has already been playing at the pro level for two years now. He went pro back in 2020-21 when he surprised everyone, even the Islanders, by signing a one-year deal with Finnish side TPS.

In 54 games with TPS two years ago he put up 38 points. The then 20-year-old was a top player on the second-best team in Finland. Ruslan learned some important lessons from former Islander Raimo Helminen on how to be a better 200-foot center and transformed himself from a third-line center to a second-line center in a matter of weeks.

For the 21-22 season, Iskhakov signed a one-year deal with Adler Mannheim. When I spoke to Adler GM Jan-Axel Alavaara about bringing in Ruslan, he was gushing about the signing. Saying players like Ruslan don't often come to play in the German league.

And Ruslan did well in Germany with 22 points in 25 games. There were some setbacks. Like an injury that significantly cut his season short, and a new coach that inexplicably stopped playing him in the finals games of the regular season and through most of the playoffs. But still, he proved he could be a productive player even when he wasn't used very frequently.

Iskhakov will suit up for Bridgeport still needing to prove he belongs. That's the unfortunate truth for players who are undersized like Iskhakov. But I think he'll surprise a number of people. This is a highly skilled and very creative player.