Fans of the New York Islanders knew Ilya Sorokin had the potential to be considered among the best NHL goaltenders for years. Prior to coming to Long Island, he put up jaw-dropping numbers in the KHL for CSKA Moscow and was widely viewed as the best goaltender playing outside of North America. However, it's taken until his third NHL season for the rest of the league, at least the fanbases, to catch on and recognize him as among the league's elite goaltenders.
In a poll run by J Fresh Hockey, fans were asked which NHL goalies were elite. After the 2021-22 season, when Sorkin finished sixth in Vezina voting, only 1% of fans surveyed were willing to put him in that category, with 2021-22 Vezina Trophy Winner Igor Shesterkin being considered elite by 92% of fans and two-time Stanley Cup winner Andrei Vasilevskiy receiving 96% support.
But when the same question was posed to fans after this season, it became clear that the perception of Sorokin changed for NHL fans around the league last season. In the latest survey, Sorokin is now considered elite by 79% of the 2,151 fans that took the survey. That's a year-over-year change of 78%! What's more interesting is the impact advanced statistics likely had on responders. Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins, who is the Vezina favorite this season, only received 22% support for being considered elite. In various models, Sorokin was among the league leaders in goals-saved above expected (GSAx), which takes into consideration the quality of shots goaltenders face.
Only Vasilievsky, Shesterkin, and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets received a higher percentage of support in the poll than the 27-year-old Sorokin, who is entering the final year of a three-year contract with the Islanders next season.
Sorokin was named a Vezina Trophy Finalist for the first time in his career last month, joined by Ullmark and Hellebuyck. He appeared in a career-high 62 games this season, posting a solid 31-22-7 record as the team's workhorse down the stretch of the season, and became the fifth goaltender in franchise history to win 30 games in a season.
He finished the year with a 2.34 goals against (GAA), sixth best in the league and was third with a .924 save percentage. He also had a league-best six shutouts and now has 16 already in his career after posting seven shutouts the prior season.