By Warren Kozireski —
One year ago, 2018 New York Islanders second round draft pick Ruslan Iskhakov was new to Prospect Camp, training camp and embarking on his first season of professional hockey with the Bridgeport Islanders in the American Hockey League.
Now he has evolved as a veteran who is hoping to be one of the first called up to the NHL when injuries occur.
And he got that second professional season off to a roaring start with two goals, including the overtime game-winner, and an assist in the season opener for Bridgeport and adding a pair of assists in the second game to tie him for the early league lead in points.
“Had a lot of fun today finally getting the season going,” Iskhakov said after the opener.
Iskhakov is from Moscow, Russia, but decided the NCAA would be his route and played two seasons at the University of Connecticut. The playmaker scored a combined 42 points in 64 games before the pandemic meant no Huskies hockey and he headed to first Finland and then Germany for two campaigns.
“It’s actually an interesting story (coming to play college hockey). One time I was watching the World Junior Championships U-18, and the American team was really good at the time. And I looked at their roster and 90% of players were from the NCAA, so that’s how it basically started.
“Then a couple of schools contacted me when I was with the National team and that’s how I ended up (at UConn) and then I was in Europe; it was a good time (and) I really enjoyed it.”
He is just 5’8” and 170 lb. but is likely the fastest skater on the ice in any given game. Good stickhandling in traffic and he’s not afraid to go to the boards or the net.
Now 23 years old, Iskhakov scored 17 goals with 34 assists in 69 games last season with Bridgeport and was named to the AHL All-Star game as an injury replacement.
He is listed on the roster as a center but was playing left wing. Doesn’t seem to matter.
“It doesn’t matter as long as you get the right people to play with and space to show your skills. I don’t want to be a picky guy; if the team sees me as a winger, you just need to adjust pretty quickly and play your best.”
Of to a strong start to his second season after a strong Prospect Camp and preseason, Iskakov is vaulting himself into the New York Islanders conversation in the near or very near future.
“I think it went pretty good; I worked really hard this summer on my weaknesses, and it was my second camp, so I was way more comfortable, so I think it was pretty good.”