The New York Islanders are one step closer to securing their goaltender of the future.
Earlier this morning, TSN reported that the KHL season is officially canceled after the league couldn’t come to a resolution to schedule its playoffs due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
What that means for Ilya Sorokin is that his outstanding season for CSKA Moscow, and his legendary career playing in his native land, have come to an end.
All signs now points to the Russian phenom finally making his way to North America to begin his pro career with the Isles. Islanders g.m. Lou Lamoriello gave the same notion too this past weekend in a Q&A with the team’s official website.
”Yes, we have every indication that he will be here for next season,” Lamoriello said.
Lamoriello answered a slew of other questions but it was the one about Sorokin that caught the most attention.
The Islanders, even going back to before Lamoriello took over running the club, have been trying to get Sorokin to Long Island since they drafted him 78th overall back in 2014. Fans got a small glimpse of him at the organization’s rookie camp that July and saw the franchise’s next elite goalie right before their very eyes.
Then, just like that, Sorokin was back in Russia. One year past, then the next, and the next one after that. During that time, all Isles fans heard about was this “White Whale” and how he was — and frankly still is — the best goaltending prospect not playing in North America. Sorokin, not even in his mid-20s, was setting records over in the KHL, receiving countless accolades and helping CSKA win multiple Gagarin Cups (championship awarded to the team who wins the KHL playoffs).
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) January 15, 2019
The more fans saw and heard about Sorokin’s dominance, the more they clamored for the organization to pry him from Russia. Confidence in him ever playing in an Islander uniform has wained at times because contractual obligations and the fact that many stars in the KHL are considered royalty in their homeland and are given whatever they want to be enticed to stay.
That should no longer be the case anymore; Sorokin’s contract with CSKA is up this time next month and he has nothing left to prove in the KHL.
There’s only one destination left for him to elevate his star status: the NHL and the Isles.
Once Sorokin signs on the dotted line, not only will the goaltending for the future of the franchise be solved, but the Isles will finally have an upstart puck-stopper in a Metropolitan Division that is stacked with up-and-coming goalies.
Sorokin’s arrival furthermore probably spells the end of Thomas Greiss’s tenure with the Islanders. Greiss, who is ten years Sorokin’s senior, has been a solid presence for half a decade. And whether he takes the starring role from his fellow Russian and good friend Semyon Varlamov or is the backup, Sorokin will take claim as the most accomplished goaltender the organization has had since Chris Osgood. Sorokin will also be another piece that Lamoriello and the organization could build around — along with Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews — to help sustain constant success.
And that is the most crucial part of the Mezhdurechensk native’s long, awaited arrival.
Lamoriello has built championship teams from the net on out throughout his managerial career. He did it in both his former stops — New Jersey and Toronto — when he drafted Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur and traded for stud goalie Frederik Andersen. Now he’ll get another chance to do it with Sorokin, And having the 24-year-old just starting his pro career, as opposed to he being in the league for a few years or a solidified vet, is a luxury of sorts.
The Isles will have to wait until May 1st before Sorokin can sign; all KHL players can sign with an NHL team starting that day. But once he does, they will finally be reassured they have the next one in net.
This is a franchise over the last two years who has been building, and Sorokin has been one of the bigger dominoes waiting to fall in place.
He’s coming and hopefully he’s ready for the brightest stage.
The wait has been long enough for everyone to see it.
Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_