It hasn’t been the easiest path for Ruslan Iskhakov since being drafted by the NY Islanders in the second round in 2018.
After playing in the NCAA and bouncing around Europe, Iskhakov made a home for himself with the Bridgeport Islanders. In his second season in the AHL, Iskhakov has been the B-Isles representative at the AHL All-Star Game the last two seasons, fished third last season in rookie scoring, and currently leads the B-Isles in scoring.
Now, at 23 years old, Iskhakov has yet to make his NHL debut, and with all four Islanders centers signed through next year, it’s unclear when he’ll get his opportunity to prove himself at the game's highest level.
Born in Moscow, Russia, Iskhakov hasn’t played in his native country since 2017-18 with Krasnoyarsk Armiya Mikva of the MHL, but there is a report making its rounds on X that Iskhakov could sign with CSKA Moscow in the KHL this summer.
An undersized center at 5’8”, Iskhakov’s skill set is one of a top 6 center rather than playing in a checking role. With Bo Horvat, Mat Barzal, and Brock Nelson all capable of filling that role, Iskhakov has been stuck in limbo in the AHL.
The KHL has long been considered the second-best league in the world behind the NHL and would garner a significant pay raise from the AHL, along with CSKA being one of the most prestigious teams in Russia.
Iskhakov has made some highlight-reel plays while in the AHL, most notably in penalty shootouts. At the AHL All-Star game this season, he deked the goalie entirely out of his crease and was left with a gaping net in front of him.
It would be completely understandable if Iskhakov wanted to make a few extra rubles playing in his home country - but this has been done before by agents with Russian players as a negotiation tactic. He is represented by Dan Millstein and Gold Star Sports Management, who also represent Ilya Sorokin, Alexander Romanov, and other notable Russian stars. We’ll see how it plays out in the summer, but Iskhakov is someone the Isles will definitely want to hold onto.