In only his second season in North America, goaltender Ilya Sorokin was one of the few bright spots during a disappointing 2021-22 NY Islanders season. Sorokin, along with Noah Dobson may have been the only two players that Islanders fans could look at and see as a building block for the future.
After an outstanding season where the Mezhdurechensk, Russia native split the crease with fellow countryman Semyon Varlamov, Sorokin was snubbed when it came to voting for the Vezina Trophy. Sorokin finished in sixth place in the vote for the 2021-22 season's best goaltender, receiving five votes, only one of which was for first place. New York Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin was deservingly the runaway victor receiving 29 first place votes of a possible 32. Both Russian netminders are close friends off the ice and have been two of the most anticipated goalie prospects to come to the NHL in some time.
Some of Sorokin's best work came early on during the team's 13-game road trip to start the season. On back-to-back nights in Arizona and Las Vegas, Sorokin posted a shutout in both games, the first Islanders goaltender to do so on consecutive nights. Sorokin finished the campaign with seven shutouts, a number which actually could have been much higher if the play in front of him had been improved. In addition to the shutouts, Sorokin only allowed a single goal in nine contests and a few of those were scored in the game's waning moments, including October 19, against the Chicago Blackhawks when Mackenzie Entwistle scored with 26 seconds remaining.
The most impressive moment of Sorokin's season came against the cross-town rival Rangers at Madison Square Garden. What looked to be an open net for fellow Russian Artemi Panarin was snatched out of thin air (quite literally) by Sorokin's paddle. An incredible display of athleticism closed the door on Panarin, swatting the puck from entering the net with the paddle of his stick. The save was voted as save of the season by NHL fans.
It seems as if heading into next season Sorokin is beginning to see a bit more respect as far as Las Vegas oddsmakers go at least. Currently, Sorokin sits as the third favorite to take home the Vezina Trophy at the end of the season, trailing only Shesterkin and Andriy Vasilevsky. According to VegasInsider.com, Sorokin's odds are currently at +800 while Shesterkin is the favorite at +250 and Vasilevskiy at +500 (odds are based on a $100 bet. In Sorokin's case, a $100 bet would net you $800).
As we gear up for another season, Sorokin should be given the reigns as the number one goaltender with veteran Varlamov as a 1B or a backup. It's a formidable one-two punch, but Sorokin has proven that he is capable of handling a larger share. He is the future of the franchise, especially with Varlamov only having only one season left on his current contract. As our own Joseph Buono points out, the Islanders are considered to have the league's best goalie tandem by a fan vote, which was doubled down by TSN's Travis Yost.
With no insane road trip to start the season, and COVID stoppages a thing of the past (hopefully), Sorokin should have his complete cast of support surrounding him all season as he is ready to prove to the rest of the league that he deserves to mentioned in the same sentence as Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy. The one thing that is needed to be considered a possible Vezina candidate is winning. It appears that a team essentially needs to be locked into the playoffs for their goalie to be praised as one of the best. Sorokin will be the backbone of the Islanders as they look to get back to their winning ways and their continued quest to bring Lord Stanley back to Long Island.