After 6 long years, Russian Goaltender Ilya Sorokin is finally headed to the Island. After being selected in the 3rd round in the 2014 NHL Draft, Sorokin has made a name for himself playing in the KHL, which is widely regarded as the second most skilled league in the world (behind the NHL, of course). The 24-year old has a career .940 save percentage in the KHL, and has been progressing every season.
In the 2019 KHL season, Sorokin was just as good, if not better than previous years, with a 1.16 GAA, .940 Save Percentage and 11 shutouts (which was a career high for Ilya). Additionally, Sorokin was awarded the KHL playoff MVP, as the young goalie carried CSKA Moscow to the Gagarin Cup.
On Monday, Sorokin was finally allowed to sign his one-year ELC (entry-level contract) with the Islanders. Early Tuesday morning, this ELC was extended with a one-year, two-million dollar contract that will allow Sorokin to play with the Islanders in the 2020-21 season.
But, where does the young goalie slot in? The Islanders still have Semyon Varlamov under contract for three more years at 5 million a year, and going into the 2020-21 season, Sorokin will have zero experience playing in North America. He has already said he is willing to play in the minors, but is that the best move for the Islanders?
The answer is complicated. Thomas Greiss’ contract expires after the 2019-20 season, so is it worth extending him for one more year? Will Greiss even be up to re-upping for one more year with the risk of his job being usurped by Sorokin by the middle of the year? It’s unlikely Greiss will stay, which ultimately means that Sorokin is penciled in for the 2020 roster.
Head Coach Barry Trotz and GM Lou Lamoriello could decide that Sorokin isn’t ready for being a full-time starter, and will instead opt to go with a 1A/1B option with Varlamov and Sorokin splitting time. Regardless, the Islanders’ extreme commitment to defense in Trotz primarily defensive system should make the adjustment to the NHL easier for Ilya Sorkin.