With Ilya Sorokin secured to an eight-year contract over the summer, the New York Islanders now have one of the best goaltenders in the league secured for the foreseeable future.
But can he solidify himself as the best in the league this season?
Sorokin finished second in Vezina voting last year after going 31-22-7 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average.
He finished above 2022-23 Vezina winner Linus Ullmark in Hart Trophy voting after helping an Islanders squad laden with injuries to a playoff berth.
But can he do it again?
Sorokin is expected to step up big time, once again, on a deep New York team with little top-of-the-line talent.
Lou Lamoriello did not make any moves to rectify his squad’s struggling power play and its mediocre offense.
So, if the Islanders make a run at the playoffs again, Sorokin will have a lot to do with it.
New York also has a strong defensive structure which will help Sorokin keep his numbers up, much like Boston’s did to help Ullmark win it the year prior.
As of now, Sorokin is tied for the top odds at +500 with Connor Hellebuyck, Juuse Saros and cross-town rival Igor Shesterkin. You can take the action with the Caesars Sportsbook Promo Code.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was strongly considered a favorite for the Vezina going into the year, has been effectively knocked out of the race after suffering a back injury prior to the start of the season.
He is unlikely to return from it until late-November to early December.
Ullmark, who wowed voters with a 40-6-1 season along with a .938/1.89 slashline, is unlikely to repeat that performance after Boston had key departures such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
He is slotted in at sixth at +1700.
Dallas’ Jake Oettinger is the only other likely contender outside of the top four, sitting in fifth at +1100.
He led the Stars to the playoffs last year with a 37-11-11 record, a .919 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average.
But what separates Sorokin form the rest of the pack up top?
Saros’ Nashville Predators are coming off of a rebuilding season and still have a defense with many questions.
Hellebuyck’s Winnipeg Jets, while more secure up front, have similar questions after a disappointing finish to their 2022-23 season.
That leaves the two New York netminders as the likely favorites for the 2023-24 Vezina Trophy.
And the edge should go to the one who resides on Long Island.
Shesterkin’s numbers took a slip after the his dominant 2021-22 campaign, with his save percentage dropping from a .935 to a .916 and his goals-against average dropping from a 2.48 to a 2.37.
His 2022-23 numbers being much more indicative of his career averages of .924 and 2.37.
Sorokin’s career-average matches Shesterkin but has consistently been above the .920 mark throughout his career.
A good defensive structure under head coach Lane Lambert helps that.
What gives Sorokin more of an edge is that he has to carry the load more than Shesterkin does.
The Rangers are deep with stars like Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider all throughout their lineup.
Sorokin is arguably the lone superstar on the Islanders.
If they make the playoffs, Sorokin will have a lot to do with it.