With all the injuries to the New York Islanders, it has allowed an opportunity for highly-touted prospect, Otto Koivula, to make his NHL debut.
After being on the shuttle from Bridgeport to Long Island five times this season, he finally had his chance to play against the Philadelphia Flyers a little over a week ago. He played on a line with Ross Johnston and Michael Dal Colle.
The Islanders were in need of bodies, as Koivula played 7:14 and used his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame to register two hits. The Islanders trailed 3-0 heading into the third period before they extended their point streak to 14 games with a 4-3 shootout win.
“It’s awesome to be honest,” Koivula said, “It was a great feeling feeling and a dream come true. It’s been a crazy past two weeks up and down all the time. Finally got the first game and I’m so happy right now.”NHL.com
He then got the opportunity to play in three more games in a home-and-home series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and against the San Jose Sharks. He did not get on the scoresheet, but has not looked out of place. The Islanders are on a 17-game point streak after Brock Nelson scored overtime goals in back-to-back games against the Penguins and earned a point in their overtime loss to the Sharks.
Season Expectations for Koivula
It’s hard to imagine Koivula will stay in the NHL, as Matt Martin returned from an injury and Tom Kuhnhackl seems close to returning. Also, Oliver Wahlstrom will likely be called back up at some point after his strong stay with the Islanders.
However, Koivula can play on the wing as well as center. Given the Islanders lack of depth down the middle, he could see some time in the NHL down the road this season. New York’s third line center, Derick Brassard, has been impressive, but it has mostly been while he plays on the wing, leaving a spot open for Koivula.
If he does spend time in the American Hockey League, it will be a good opportunity for the young player to work on his game and excel. He could be a future top-six forward for the Islanders.
Prior to Joining the Islanders
Koivula played two seasons and won the Jr A SM-Liiga in 2015-16 when he scored 30 goals and 68 points in 71 games.
He then earned a two-year deal with the Ilves Tampere in the SM Liiga, which is the top hockey league in Finland, and scored 19 goals in over 100 games. Koivula was drafted by the Islanders 120th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and dominated with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season.
He also had a chance to represent this home country of Finland in the World Junior Championships in 2017 and 2018 when his team finished ninth and sixth (respectively) in his two years eligible.
Up next, New York will continue their west coast trip against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. It will be pretty interesting to see what head coach Barry Trotz does with their young rookie, as they face veteran teams that have struggled this season.