Top prospects Aatu Räty and William Dufour may have grabbed headlines and the spotlight this summer after their impressive years, but it's another AHL first-timer, Ruslan Iskhakov leads all AHL rookies in assists (seven) and points (11). Through seven games, the 2018 second-round pick (43rd overall) leads Bridgeport in points as the B-Isles are off to a 5-1-1 start.
NY Islanders prospect Ruslan Iskhakov is turning heads in Bridgeport
During his annual NHL Pipeline Rankings, The Athletic's Cory Pronman had Iskhakov in the "has a chance a play category' recognizing his offensive ability, but was concerned about his lack of size to compete at the NHL. "There’s no denying Iskhakov has NHL skill and playmaking ability, and he had a decent year, being a point-per-game player in the DEL," said Pronman. His game lacks pace and compete, though, which is concerning at his size — so he has a long way to go to be an NHL player."
The diminutive Iskhakov (you will see him listed anywhere from 5'7 to 5'9) is a bit older than other AHL rookies at 22 years old. As a refresher for some, he was drafted out of the Moscow Junior Hockey League and a few days later committed to play college hockey at UCONN. With the Huskies, he registered 42 points (15g, 27a) in 64 collegiate games over two seasons, ranking second on the team in assists (15) and third on the club in points (21) as a freshman in 2018-19.
He scored 38 points (10g, 28a) in 54 regular-season games in his only season with TPS (Liiga) before moving to Adler Mannheim of the German DEL and scored at nearly a point-per-game pace, finishing with 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) in 25 games.
In our Eyes on Isles 2022 Prospect Profiles, Michael Stahurski wrote: "Iskhakov is an offensive-minded playmaker with outstanding puckhandling skills. With his slight frame, Iskhakov is capable of squeezing through tight spaces while maintaining control of the puck. With a pass-first mentality, he looks to dish the puck to teammates in a high-caliber scoring position."
Perhaps this is just a hot start, but Iskhakov has always been a talented prospect that, while not forgotten, has undoubtedly been moved to the back of fans' minds. Without first-round picks in the last three years, the Islanders' prospect pool has not been replenished and ranks toward the bottom of most consensus rankings. Having players viewed as borderline NHLers emerge as legit prospects will help stabilize the organization in the years to come.