Ruslan Iskhakov makes NHL debut with New York Islanders

Iskhakov is the seventh Husky to make it to the league.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After impressing in the AHL over the last two seasons, Ruslan Iskhakov made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders on Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the team already locked into its playoff position, it called up Iskhakov for the final game of the regular season.

"I had fun watching him play," Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said afterwards. “The plan was to give him some ice time and give him a chance to show us what he could do. And I was very, very happy with what I've seen… He's got great energy. He competes. He's small, but I don't know if he knows he's small the way he's been playing, so that's nice to watch. It was fun. I have time for him."

He became the seventh former UConn player to reach the NHL, joining Todd Krygier, Cole Schneider, Tage Thompson, Max Letunov, Adam Huska and Yan Kuznetsov.

Iskhakov first came over the boards early in the opening period on the Islanders’ second power play unit and finished the night with 20 shifts for 14:11 of ice time. He recorded his first NHL point in the third period with an assist on a go-ahead goal.

Later in the third, Iskhakov nearly had his first goal when he sprung free on a short breakaway but got denied by the goaltender.

"I wanted that so badly," Iskhakov said postgame. "But, hey, I hope I'm gonna get another opportunity and will bury the next one."

New York eventually pulled out a 5-4 win. The Islanders will face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday, but it’s unclear whether Iskhakov will join them.

"From each period, I was getting more comfortable. I was understanding more,” Iskhakov said. “My first shifts, you're just all over the place with adrenaline just going through the roof, and you have so much energy. But I settled down after the first period and I felt pretty comfortable."

Iskhakov earned his second straight AHL All-Star nod this past season as he posted 17 goals and 34 assists in 69 games. A native of Moscow, Russia, he spent two seasons at UConn from 2018-20 before the onset of the Covid pandemic impacted his family, which forced him to turn pro in Europe.

For the next two seasons, Iskhakov played overseas before he signed with the Islanders. Despite taking the long route to the NHL, he’s still only 23 years old.

Yan Kuznetsov also made his debut this past season with the Calgary Flames while Wyatt Newpower skated with the Detroit Red Wings in warmups but never played. UConn’s longtime NHL regular, Tage Thompson, finished the campaign with 29 goals and 27 assists while playing 71 games.