Ruslan Iskhakov Relishes NHL Debut

Ruslan Iskhakov Relishes NHL Debut

Apr 18, 2024

By Rachel Luscher (@rachel_luscher)


When Ruslan Iskhakov took his rookie lap for the New York Islanders ahead of his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, he made sure to take it all in.


“I think I did six laps, not just one,” Iskhakov said.


The 23-year-old center waited two seasons – 138 AHL games to be exact - for this moment. After getting the call-up on Wednesday morning, the day was admittedly a whirlwind, but he settled into his game as the contest wore on.


"I felt pretty good,” Iskhakov said. “I would say, from each period I was feeling better and more comfortable."


The 5’8, 170 lbs. center played 14:11 in his NHL debut, recording an assist for his first NHL point. The highly-skilled prospect made some nifty passes in his debut, recorded quality chances and earned praise from Head Coach Patrick Roy.


"The plan was to give him some ice time and give him a chance to show us where he could do. I was very, very happy with what I've seen,” Roy said. “He’s small, but I don’t know if he knows he’s small, the way he’s been playing. He’s got great energy, he competes. I have time for him.”


The 23-year-old center notched his first career NHL point in the third period, collecting the puck along the wall and dishing a pass to Ryan Pulock, who set up Sam Bolduc’s blast. Iskhakov came close to a goal of his own, though. In a thrilling scoring chance at the end of regulation, but he was denied by Alex Nedeljkovic.


“I wanted that so badly,” Iskhakov said. “But hey, in another opportunity I will bury the next one.”


Iskhakov made some notable contributions in his NHL debut, drawing an interference penalty against Jack St. Ivany to put the Islanders on the power play late in the second period. Kyle Palmieri capitalized with the man advantage, tying the game at three apiece. Palmieri was impressed with the Russian forward’s performance in his debut.


"I thought he played a great game," Palmieri said of Iskhakov. "He won a lot of battles and he put themselves in some great spots, had some great chances. I was really impressed and that's what I expected him to be like."


Iskhakov started the game with JG Pageau, but on a night where the lines were jumbled from the jump – the Isles started the game with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, the 2018 second-round pick eventually played alongside Brock Nelson and Palmieri.


"He's got lots of skill, he's confident he's got a great stick," Nelson said. "Good energy. Playing with him for his first NHL game was exciting. He was awesome and contributed on the power play as well."


Iskhakov has garnered league attention for some pretty shootout goals over his two seasons in Bridgeport, showcasing his skillset that translated into social media buzz. The Isles had seen a few of the goals both in person and online prior to his debut.


"We saw him over the summer and in training camp, highlights on Instagram and stuff like that,” Palmieri said. “So, we knew the kind of skill he had. You can tell he was excited to get a crack at it, I thought he played a great game.”


Iskhakov put up back-to-back 50-point campaigns with Bridgeport for a total of 101 career points. Though he replicated his impressive numbers from his rookie season last year, Iskhakov felt he has grown a lot in his second pro season.


"I feel more mature and poised with the puck,” Iskhakov said. “Coach [Rick] Kowalski gave me more minutes this year and I feel more like a leader of the team, that helped me a lot for sure. It's been pretty good season for me."

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