Schwartz: Who Does Ilya Sorokin Compare To?

There are currently two players on the Islanders roster that were taken in the 2014 NHL Draft.  The Isles took forward Michael Dal Colle 5th overall in the first round and then in the 4th round they took defenseman Toews (do I mention that the Islanders also took forward Josh Ho-Sang later in the first round that year?  Nah, that’s a story for another day!).  There will soon be a third player from the 2014 draft on the roster and that is third round selection Ilya Sorokin, a Russian goaltender that the Islanders and their fans have been waiting patiently for.In many cases, it could take a draft pick a year or two to make it the NHL and sometimes it could take longer.  In the case of Sorokin, it’s been a six-year wait for the Islanders but not because he wasn’t ready to play but because he chose to stay in Russia.

But now, the player that fans and media have dubbed “The White Whale”, is coming to Long Island. 

Sorokin’s contract with CSKA Moscow in the NHL expired at the end of April and this week, he finally signed an NHL contract with the Islanders for the rest of this season as well as for the 2020-21 campaign.  Sorokin, who is currently in Russia, is not eligible to play in this season’s playoffs, but he is expected to join the Islanders for training camp on Long Island and then travel with the team to Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The wait will be a little longer to actually see Sorokin play in a game for the Islanders, but the excitement is certainly building and the hype is real.

“Ilya Sorokin is easily the best if not one of the best goaltenders outside of the NHL so in a nutshell (Islanders fans) should be very excited,” said KHL reporter Gillian Kemmerer when she joined me on my “Schwartz On Sports” podcast back on April 13th.  “Where he was drafted, he’s a steal.  He’s absolutely incredible both in regular season and in post-season play.” 

By now, most Islanders fans probably know the important facts surrounding Sorokin, a highly-touted goaltending prospect who has been a stud in Russia for the last eight seasons.  Sorkin is just 24 years old but brings a tremendous resume to Long Island with a lifetime regular season record of 134-64-22, a goals against average of 1.70 and a save percentage of .930.


(Ilya Sorkin makes a save)

Sorokin has a post-season record of 50-17-0 with a 1.37 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.  He was selected to play in five consecutive KHL All-Star Games and guided CSKA Moscow to the 2019 Gagarin Cup, the trophy given to the champion of the KHL winning playoff MVP honors. 

The numbers speak for themselves, but many Islanders fans are curious as to what other goalies that Sorokin can be compared to.

“I pass on that,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello when I asked him that question during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.  “I’ve never met two goalies that are the same.  Styles change.  He’s a goaltender that has his own unique traits so we’ll just have to see how he does when he comes here.  But I could not compare him to anyone.”

Lamoriello certainly knows a thing or two about goalies having drafted Martin Brodeur when he was the GM of the New Jersey Devils.  All Brodeur did was have a Hall of Fame career and help the Devils win three Stanley Cups.  But while Lou wouldn’t take the bait and compare Sorokin to anyone else, there certainly have been comparisons to a couple of current NHL netminders.

The Islanders will see one of those goalies when they meet the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting on August 1st and they could face the other when they meet the Rangers in their lone exhibition game before the playoffs on July 29th.   

(Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky)

(Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin)

“I think the two players that he’s most often compared to are Sergei Bobrovsky (of the Panthers) in terms of style and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers in terms of how he’s expected to adapt to the NHL quickly,” said Kemmerer.   “I definitely think that both of those are fair comparisons.” 

Sorokin is good friend swith Shesterkin so there will soon be another layer and another chapter to the storied Islanders/Rangers rivalry.

While the Islanders are eager to see Sorokin up close and personal in the blue, orange and white when he gets to Long Island, it’s not hard to find examples of what he can do thanks to tons of highlight reels that you can find on YouTube and other places on the internet.  Sorokin has shown to be an electrifying player during his time with CSKA Moscow, but he still has to prove what he can do in the NHL.

Shesterkin has shown that he’s been able to adapt to North America and now the expectation is that Sorokin will be no different.

(Ilya Sorokin hoisting the Gagarin Cup)

“Sorokin has an incredible amount of will power, acrobatic saves, agility and incredible reflexes,” said Kemmerer.  “He also has a ton of professional experience for someone who is so young, especially for a goaltender.”

In many photos and videos from his time in the KHL, Ilya Sorokin is seen wearing uniform number 90, but based on a social media post from his North American agent it appears as if Sorokin will wear number 30 with the Islanders.  If the hype of the star Russian netminder is equaled by what he does on the ice in the NHL, you can expect to see plenty of SOROKIN 30 jerseys on Islanders fans at Nassau Coliseum, Belmont Park Arena and all around Islanders Country. 

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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