Since his debut in 2021, Ilya Sorokin has been among the NHL’s top goalies. In his first three seasons, Sorokin boasts a 70-46-18 record, 2.34 goals against average (GAA) and .924 save percentage. He also boasts a playoff series win against the Penguins in 2021 and guided the Islanders to two playoff appearances. For his efforts, he received a long term contract extension at the start of the offseason, staying put with the Isles for eight seasons starting in 2024-25. With Ilya Sorokin locked up, the Islanders hope he continues his strong play and, potentially, bring home a Vezina Trophy in the future. However, could the future be as soon as this season?
Sorokin was named a finalist for the award last season, alongside Boston’s Linus Ullmark and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck. Ullmark won the award handily, finishing 57 voting points over Sorokin after propelling the Bruins to a Presidents’ Trophy campaign. However, very rarely do Vezina Trophy winners go back-to-back, the last being Martin Brodeur in 2006-07 and ’07-08, so regression from Ullmark is likely. With this in mind, could Sorokin pounce on the opportunity?
To consider his chances of winning the award, you have to look at the names he’ll likely be in the running against. Last year’s top five featured Juuse Saros and Jake Oettinger, two names that have been or will be around the conversation for a while. Hellebuyck has also been among the league’s elite for a while, earning a Vezina win in 2019-20 and helping the Winnipeg Jets squeak into playoffs last season. Saros and Hellebucyk have a particularly similar situation to Sorokin, as they both have teams in front of them that can struggle on defense throughout the season but can make several game-stealing performances.
While goalies in tricky situations will earn great consideration, there are also the goalies on the elite teams of hockey. These names include Andrei Vasilevskiy and crosstown rival Igor Shesterkin. While there’s no denying their talents and abilities to carry a team from time-to-time, there are also times that their offenses bail them out. With Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin on offensive-heavy teams like the Lightning and Rangers, respectively, both could let up at least four goals occasionally and still find themselves with a win despite their struggles. While Sorokin also has the occasional shaky game, his season high in goals against being six, he doesn’t have the weapons these teams have, thus hurting his record. However, when he’s able to bail out his skaters on a bad night, it makes his numbers even more impressive.
As a result, Ilya Sorokin has the makings of a Vezina-winning goaltender. He can steal games with regularity despite defensive lapses of offensive droughts in front of him, and he can help guide a team to the playoffs. However, the names he’s up against will provide some interesting competition, such as crosstown rivals and other goalies that can carry teams as well. It will be a daunting task for Sorokin and a Vezina win isn’t guaranteed, but if his first years can attest, he is more than up for it.