3 New York Islanders players who surprised us this season

The New York Islanders surprised everyone with an incredible run to the playoffs, but a trio of players fueled this team all season.
Apr 13, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) controls the
Apr 13, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) controls the / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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Before we start talking about which New York Islanders players more than exceeded even our boldest expectations this season, let’s first talk about one of the most exciting seasons in the league this year. Multiple times, the Isles looked finished, and few around the league would have thought highly of this team. But if the 2023-24 Islanders made us remember something, it’s that you can never count somebody out, regardless of how bleak things may look.

Even the most faithful Isles fans would have thought earning a wild card berth was their most realistic chance at the playoffs, so a top-three finish with a chance to knock off the mighty Carolina Hurricanes is a bonus. It also gives the Islanders a chance to avenge last season’s 4-2 loss, so this series will be one to watch when the Stanley Cup Playoffs commence. 

But there isn’t a single team in the league that can surprise doubters unless some of their best players step up. Ilya Sorokin was one who made an impeccable late-season resurgence amidst a down year. Sorokin had just a 0.906 save percentage and 158 goals allowed on 1,689 shots on net between October 14th and March 24th, but with five goals allowed in his three of his final four starts, he snagged a 0.944 save percentage and excelled when it mattered. 

A few Islanders players surprised us all season

Unfortunately for Sorokin, most of his surprises were rather unpleasant, and he finished the year with a 0.908 save percentage and a 3.01 GAA, but here’s the bright side: Not even one goal allowed above expected at even strength. While his basic stats don’t look great, the aforementioned advanced metric implies those statistics were more of the Islanders playing so-so hockey at best in the defensive zone. 

When you need not one but two major resurgences, spotty play on both sides of the ice is the name of the game, but it shouldn’t define a team that still edged out a top-three finish. While this season was less-than-memorable for Sorokin and those who contributed to the roller coaster ride that was, the following surprises helped ensure a playoff berth.