The New York Islanders didn’t loan as many prospects overseas as some other teams did. One forward starting the year in Finland, however, is Otto Koivula.
Koivula was a fourth-round pick by the Islanders in the 2016 NHL Draft and spent the majority of last season with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where he scored nine goals and 22 points in 36 games. He also played 12 games with the Islanders, where he went pointless.
With the NHL and AHL seasons delayed, the Islanders loaned Koivula to HIFK in the Liiga, where Koivula has started strong. So far, he’s managed three goals and nine points in 11 games. It’s a small sample size but for what it’s worth, he’s scoring at a higher points per game pace than former third-overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi and former fourth-overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi.
We do need to be a bit cautious when looking at these stats though, given that despite Koivula’s production, he still ranks seventh on the team in points. However, even though his numbers aren’t as high as the likes of some of his teammates, in Columbus Blue Jackets forward Emil Bemstrom and this year’s 12th-overall pick, Anton Lundell, it’s still a good sign for Koivula's development.
I don’t think many people are counting on Koivula to be a top-six forward and instead, the goal should be for him to round out his game to be a contributing member of the bottom-six. So to see him still posting solid numbers in Finland’s top league is an indication that he could produce offensively as a bottom-six forward with the Islanders at some point.
Koivula is likely to start with Bridgeport once he returns to North America but if he can carry over this production to the AHL, he could find himself competing for a spot with the Islanders sooner rather than later.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
When do you think Otto Koivula will earn a full-time role with the Islanders?