New York Islanders Otto Koivula Making a Name in Findland
When the New York Islanders draft a player in the fourth round the team knows they aren’t getting an NHL ready talent, they hope the player can develop and in time become a diamond in the rough.
In the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Islanders selected Otto Koivula in the fourth round and 120th overall after a successful 2015-16 season with the Ilves U-20 team.
That year, Koivula finished ninth in scoring in the Junior A SM-Liiga with 58 points in 49 games played. This year, he’s made the leap up to the senior squad, and it hasn’t slowed him down.
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Now playing against men in the same league Patrik Laine earned his fame, Koivula has 11 points in 17 games played. Although to be fair, Koivula might be only 18, but his 6″3′ 218 frame is man-sized. Like Lindros in the juniors, he’s just too big to play with the kids.
This relative success in the premier Finnish hockey league by no means necessitates success at the NHL level. Laine being the exception to that rule. Just because Koivula has size doesn’t mean he can continue to progress.
Some of these big kids standout in junior simply because they can out-muscle just about everyone. But once they make the jump up, either to the AHL or NHL they just can’t keep up. They can’t just use their body as a battering ram to force the puck in the net anymore.
They aren’t the biggest kid on the block anymore.
But Koivula is playing alongside men, and he’s producing. Sure the Finnish league doesn’t stack up to the AHL. But then again Koivula is 18 years-old. It’s early to tell if this is just a vein of form or a sign of things to come. Is this the real Koivula, or just a fluke?
Spending a fourth-round selection and seeing this kind of progression must make the Isles scouting department feel pretty good about themselves.
At 18 years-old, Koivula still has some years to develop and turn good on that fourth round selection. But so far so good.