New York Islanders' goaltender Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers are the friendliest of rivals. Two of the best - if not the best - at their position, the pair have followed similar paths to the NHL after playing on the same junior team in Russia when they were just 16 years old and remained close as each pursued success in North America.
The two lean on each other for advice and push each other, sometimes in unique ways, like when the two elite goaltenders were filmed pushing a truck uphill as part of their summer training sessions. Another thing the two Russian-born netminders have in common is that have been and will continue to be the biggest reason for their team's success.
Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy and was a Hart finalist after the 2021-22 season when he led the Blueshirts to the Eastern Conference Finals. Last year, it was Sorokin with the better campaign, finishing as runner-up for the Vezina to Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins and also receiving Hart Trophy votes after appearing in 62 games and leading the Islanders back to the playoffs.
“How he tracks the puck, how he moves, he has good feet — he does everything good,” Shesterkin said in The Athletic. “Last year, I think he deserve Vezina. Linus (Ullmark) have an amazing season, but Boston also have an amazing season. Islanders I think don’t make playoffs without Sorokin. But I don’t get to pick.”
Sorokin is equally complimentary to Shesterkin, calling him "a warrior" that keeps his team in every game. While the Islanders and Rangers remain one of the most storied rivalries in NHL history, the two teams haven't met in the post-season in nearly 30 years and while the two friends have met in the regular season, a playoff matchup is what is needed to transform this friendly rivalry between peers into one that will be remembered for the results on the ice.