Ilya Sorokin already sounds like an Islander.
And not just a New York Islander, but a Long Islander after only a couple of months. Long Islanders are known for their preference for the more tranquil life on Long Island than the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, and it seems Sorokin is the same way.
The new Islanders goaltender has gotten the chance to explore his new home, taking time to visit Jones Beach and New York City.
“I like the ocean and it’s very peaceful,” Ilya Sorokin said during his first media availability since training camp started. “I was in Manhattan and I don’t like it because there’s lots of people. … I like a peaceful place.”
The comment is sure to endear Sorokin even more to a fan base already over the moon to have the talented goaltender they’ve affectionally nicknamed the “white whale.” The arrival of Sorokin has been years in the making and after seven days of on-ice work, it seems he is more than happy with the decision he has made.
Prior to this year, it had always been a question of whether or not Ilya Sorokin would ever leave the KHL and join the Islanders in North America. Faced with that decision, Sorokin weighed his options and decided to follow his dreams.
“It was stay in Moscow for one more season or go to my dream and play in the NHL, the best league in the world,” He said. “All guys have dream of playing in the NHL. I wanted a bigger challenge. It was a lot of things.”
Now Sorokin will get that challenge.
Not only is he joining the Islanders with plenty of expectations, but he is doing so in a year that could only be described as unusual. With COVID-19 still impacting everyday life across the country, The season will be condensed to 56 games and each game will carry more meaning.
There won’t be much room for error during the course of the year, but that may not be the worst thing in the world.
During a normal year, the NHL schedule would be longer and more spread out. As Islanders coach Barry Trotz noted on Tuesday, you would often play a game and then have a couple of days off in between. That prevented both goaltenders from being able to get into a rhythm.
“The backup sometimes can sit for a couple of weeks before you get him his first game,” Trotz said. “I don’t see that being the case for the schedule for any of the teams or the coaches. The one thing I do think on the flip side of that is there’s no travel and so if you have one goaltender you can probably ride him a lot more. I know there’s a lot more games, but a lot less travel.”
The Islanders bench boss wasn’t sure on Tuesday how quickly Sorokin would get into his first game action this season. A day earlier, Trotz revealed Semyon Varlamov to be the starter for the season opener on Thursday against the New York Rangers.
Trotz said on Tuesday that he was taking his goaltending decisions one game at a time. And to Sorokin’s credit, he was just fine waiting until it was his turn to man the net.
“I have to deserve the time,” Sorokin said through a translator. “I have to still work hard for it.”
It almost seems fitting to see Sorokin in an Islanders jersey. Not only have he and current starter Semyon Varlamov created a kinship, but one of Sorokin’s goaltending idols had been former Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
"I worked with the team for plenty of time, starting in the bubble, I didn’t have any problem with the guys because they’re very friendly. We have Semyon Varlamov, he’s like a big brother, a big help to me with any questions in the process."
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 12, 2021
And if Ilya Sorokin’s words about wanting to earn his time on net weren’t enough for some, he has certainly been putting in the effort during practice. Sorokin has been working with Islanders goaltending coaches Mitch Korn and Piero Greco.
Even on Tuesday, Sorokin was on the far end of the ice working one on one with them as the rest of the team was running drills.
“A lot of things, small goalie movements, they change it,” Sorokin said. “The new coaches are changing the little details. The focus is on very small parts of the game and through that tweaking, there’s always something new.”
When word came out that Sorokin would be coming to Long Island this year there was a sense of jubilation from the fans. With it comes the expectations that he will be the franchise’s goaltender of the future.
Sorokin saw the reaction to his arrival and isn’t taking the responsibility that it comes with lightly.
“I’m quite aware of the excitement,” Sorokin said. ” Now I feel indebted to the fans and have to work hard for it to deserve this excitement.”
(Main Photo Credit: New York Islanders)