With the arrival of Ilya Sorokin, the New York Islanders are in a very good position in net. So what can we expect from Sorokin next season?
Well, despite Sorokin’s track record, we know that Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello don’t just rush players into the lineup, as we saw with Noah Dobson this season. This means we can expect that at least to start the year, Sorokin will likely be playing behind Semyon Varlamov.
I’d imagine Sorokin will start by taking maybe every third game, though it's probably safe to say he’ll have a larger workload by season’s end. All in all, Sorokin could see somewhere in the neighbourhood of 35-40 games next season.
In terms of performance, expectations are obviously high, based on how he was able to dominate in the KHL at a young age. A huge advantage for Sorokin will be the style of game that the Islanders play and how committed the team is to defense-first hockey. We’ve seen what happened when Robin Lehner, and more recently, Semyon Varlamov, came to New York. Their stats improved and while they were both solid in net, a large part of that was based on the quality of shots they were facing. The Islanders may get outshot fairly often, but they're not usually giving up a ton of high quality chances.
I really don’t think it would be shocking to see Sorokin reach a .920 save percentage next season with the Islanders, especially considering his closest comparable, Igor Shesterkin, had a .932 save percentage this year with the New York Rangers (though it was a very small sample size of just 12 games). Considering how well Shesterkin performed behind the Rangers’ defense, it’s hard to imagine just how good Sorokin could be behind the Islanders’ blue line.
To slow things down a bit, it could certainly take Sorokin some time to adjust in his first NHL season next year. That said, if he has a smooth transition to playing in North America, it's possible that we could see him manage as high as a .920 save percentage over 35 or 40 games next season.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
What save percentage do you expect from Ilya Sorokin next season?