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Islanders Goalie Prospect Ilya Sorokin Extends KHL Contract to 2020

A little more clarity in the goalie prospect pipeline

Russia v USA - 2016 IIHF World Championship Ice Hockey: Bronze Medal Game
“Maybe I’ll come out later, not now.”
Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images

Ilya Sorokin, a CSKA Moscow goalie drafted by the New York Islanders in the 2014 third round, has extended his contract to 2020, according to the KHL club and multiple reports.

The goalie, named the KHL goalie of the year in 2015-16, was already understood to be signed through next season, so this maneuver appears to add an additional two seasons while possibly* assuring he doesn’t play in blue and orange for at least that long.

(*You never know with these; KHL deals sometimes have out clauses, and sometimes players bank money to buy their way out and leave for North America when the time is right.)

Sorokin, 21 (he turns 22 in August), is arguably the Islanders’ second — some would say first -- best goaltending prospect, and he’s clearly had success in the top Russian league. He was never going to be with the Islanders in 2017-18, but there was the possibility of him coming over the following season.

Of course, a prospect’s route to the NHL usually involves an AHL stint, and that’s less appealing (and far less lucrative on an NHL ELC) than continued work in the KHL.

Should I Panic?

Sure, you’re an Islanders fan. Default: Panic is a birthright since 1984.

But Are You Panicing?

No. The Isles retain Sorokin’s rights, he showed interest by attending prospect camp and doing some media in 2016, and the book isn’t closed here. In one sense, due to the limited openings inherent in the position, it’s ideal to have goaltender prospects playing top competition in Europe rather than fighting each other for minutes in the American minor pro leagues.

Regardless, the list of NHL rights-held players who have come over from the KHL, or who’ve not come but then did come but then returned, or didn’t come but then did and stayed happily ever after, is lengthy.

But frankly, in the “all my Euro hopes and dreams” prospect-pumping game, I also have more stock in Linus Soderstrom, the Swedish goalie who was at this summer’s prospect mini camp and is signed with defending Swedish champion HV71 through 2017-18 but is also signed to an NHL Entry Level Contract with the Isles.

There are good reasons as we stand here in 2017 to think Soderstrom’s prospects are a little higher — though projecting goalies is voodoo, so of course only time will tell. Sorokin’s numbers this season dipped from the ridiculous 2015-16 year he had — KHL goalie stats often look insane — and he had a disappointing playoff with CSKA, so no matter what happened this was going to be a year to keep an eye on him and compare.

The way current trajectories look, Soderstrom will get first crack at being an important Islanders goaltender. Jaroslav Halak’s contract expires after this coming season, while Thomas Greiss is inked through 2019-20. Soderstrom getting a crack in 2018-19 prevents the doomsday scenario of Sorokin coming over — or buying out the end of his KHL contract — only to be unhappy if he lost a depth-chart battle to Soderstrom and ended up in the AHL.

But it also means if Soderstrom doesn’t pan out in a couple of years, there will be time and opportunity to try to entice Sorokin over to North America — assuming his stock is still high after getting more years of pro competition experience. By that time he’d have the experience, and his ELC could be shorter, allowing a quicker route to high NHL pay and, well, actual NHL games.