When the NY Islanders announced they signed former Toronto Maple Leafs and KHL forward, Nikita Soshnikov, most didn't know what to expect, or rather didn't have much of an expectation of the 28-year-old. His resume didn't exactly scream impact player looking at both his NHL and overseas history, but now three games into the preseason and after an impressive training camp, the Russian import has certainly made an impression on those around him and is making a case to claim a roster spot on the Islanders varsity roster when they take the ice against the Florida Panthers on October 13th.
EliteProspects describes Soshnikov as "an extremely smooth and quick skater and uses his edges to evade defenders and create space for his teammates. Has a very good shot and often chooses to shoot first. He is creative with the puck, and often opts for an extra move when he might be better off passing." He's undoubtedly matched that description in his first few weeks as an Islander which has put him in the running to be in the NHL when the regular season begins.
Soshnikov scored the Islanders' second preseason goal and only goal against the New Jersey Devils on September 27th in their 4-1 defeat. It was an excellent pass by Islanders prospect William Dufour that sprung Soshnikov for a semi-breakaway, and the Nizhny Tagil native's speed allowed him to get behind the Devils' defenders and snipe a goal goaltender Vitek Vanecek.
In fact, things unfold so quickly for Soshnikov, that when he scored the goal, Aatu Räty didn't even see it happen:
"What a shot. I was sitting on the bench. I couldn't see the shot, but when I saw the replay, just an amazing goal. I guess he's a shooter."- Aatu Räty
Things didn't quite work out for Soshnikov in his first NHL stint. He played four seasons in North America moving between the NHL and AHL from 2015-2019 before moving back overseas to play in the KHL. 2019-20 proved to be a good season for Soshnikov scoring 27 goals and 48 points in 58 games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa.
Jim Paliafito, formerly a European player expert with the Maple Leafs, was brought to the Islanders organization this summer by Lou Lamoriello in the same role. He's seemingly liked what he's seen out of Soshnikov in his development overseas and it's paying dividends for the Islanders thus far, and head coach Lane Lambert certainly likes what he's seen.
"I like his skating. He's quick. He thinks and sees the game pretty well. I think his strength right now is that speed and his ability to get in on pucks and battle for pucks. Obviously, the last couple of years has helped his skill game, but certainly, the focus is for him to get it in on pucks."- Lane Lambert