New York Islanders: Making the case for Otto Koivula

Otto Koivula, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have some big decisions to make before the expansion draft next year. One of these decisions is if they should protect Casey Cizikas. The talent and the attitude he brings to the team makes it obvious to protect him. But, there are other players on the team that has priority over him. Especially with Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin nearing their final days on the Island, it’s more of a reason why Cizikas will be in Seattle. That’s probably one of the worst-case scenarios for Islander fans. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say Cizikas heads to Seattle. Who can try to replace him?

Otto Koivula

Otto Koivula is one of the more puzzling prospects in the Islanders pool. He’s obviously improving every year since he was drafted, but he hasn’t put it all together yet. In 69 games with Bridgeport last year, Koivula recorded 21 goals and 25 assists. He also had 2 assists in 5 playoff games.

I think Koivula can replace Cizikas, just off his playing style. It’s very similar and very different at the same time. Having a guy like Casey Cizikas on the 4th line is energizing and exciting. Having a guy like Otto Koivula promises responsible yet boring Hockey. It’s not like Koivula can dangle and skate past anyone, he’s more of a grinder who gets in the corners and uses his shoulders well.

Scouting Report

Otto Koivula is a nice power forward who has some dangles and can score consistently. But, he lacks the creativity to really make an impact in an NHL game. With the right coaching, this will change, luckily the Islanders only have Barry Trotz. Sometimes it feels like he’s really only out there skating. In 12 NHL games last year, he logged nothing but ice time and hits. Koivula has time to fix his game, as he probably won’t be needed this year, but he has to be ready soon.

Islanders continuing to get ready for next season despite the unknown

While the start date for the upcoming NHL season remains in limbo, several Islanders are still preparing whenever they may receive the call for when things may begin.

Over the weekend, defenseman Noah Dobson was seen on Instagram working out in the weight room as he prepares for his second season as a pro. It was also a nice reminder that the season will hopefully get here soon and that Dobson himself will be one of the key players for the Isles moving forward.

Dobson was on the ice for the last time the Isles played, as it was his only appearance in the postseason.

The 20-year-old, who appeared in 33 games last season, is expected to be in the play for one of the team’s top-four spots on the blue line. He is expected to replace the services of Devon Toews. Toews was traded last month to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two future second-round picks.

Dobson isn’t the only one who has been working toward the proposed January 1st start date.

Simon Holmstrom, who was playing back in his home country on loan from the organization, is heading to Long Island to get ready for camp with the big club. Holmstrom skated in 11 games for Vita Hasten, posting a goal and an assist. And as The Athletic’s Arthur Staple noted this morning, there’s a chance the Isles send their 2019-first round pick to Edmonton where he will join Sweden for the upcoming World Juniors tournament.

Then there’s Otto Koivula. Just like Dobson, Koivula spent the entire postseason with the Isles despite not seeing any game action in either bubble.

The 22-year-old spent some time with the big club last year but has been getting tons of ice time suiting up for IFK in the Finnish Elite League — Liiga — after the Isles loaned him there a month ago.

With IFK, he’s tallied 11 points and his game seems to be rounding into form.

“There’s a big difference to be playing 15-20 games in a league than just training on your own and skating with the guys on Long Island,” Koivula told The Athletic. “That’s good, too, but it’s being in game shape that I think will help me when camp starts.”

Koivula is going to need his best if he’s going to want to crack the Isles lineup. It could be an uphill battle for him with the team basically set down the middle and some other veterans and depth guys ahead of him on the totem pole. On the flip side, it’s good to see him looking to be ready right out of the gates with the hopes of impressing Barry Trotz and his coaching staff.

January 1st continues to be the target date for the NHL and NHLPA to begin the season, but nothing has been decided on yet. That hasn’t stopped several Islander players from preparing as if this were a normal season.

Which is good even with all the uncertainty ahead.

New York Islanders: International prospects update

Ruslan Iskhakov, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders have a bunch of prospects playing right now, all over the world. Coverage in places like Finland and Russia isn’t as good as it is in America. I’ve taken it upon myself to report and grade some of the Islanders’ best prospects throughout the world. Without any further explanation or build-up, what are the Islanders’ international prospects playing like?

Ruslan Iskhakov

I can guarantee you, that you haven’t heard his name since he was drafted two years ago in the second round. There was a lot of hype for Iskhakov, people compared him to Mika Zibanejad. Ishkakov absolutely destroyed the Slovakia U18 league with 104 points in 2017. After two mediocre seasons at the University of Connecticut, Iskhakov made his way to the TPS. In 9 games, he has 5 points, but he most recently got healthy scratched. Iskhakov may never reach his full potential.

Otto Koivula

Otto Koivula is an NHL hopeful. In and out of the Islanders’ roster, Koivula needs to make his mark overseas. Koivula was put on loan to the Liiga in Finland and has been a solid player for the HIFK. Koivula recorded 3 points in 5 games and continues to impress in the offensive end. If he ever wants a permanent spot in the NHL, Koivula must improve the defensive side of his game.

Oliver Wahlstrom

It’s finally time, it’s Oliver Wahlstrom time. In Sweden, Wahlstrom has proved to be one of the top players for AIK. With 4 points in 6 games and a couple of spectacular goals, Wahlstrom is ready to come back over. Islander fans have been waiting for Wahlstrom for what seems like decades. He recently took a hard fall into the boards that have kept him sidelined for a couple of games, but he will be fine. Wahlstrom is ready.

Simon Holmstrom

Simon Holmstrom is so unbelievably streaky. Sometimes he’s on his games, and other games he literally just skates around. In 6 games with HC Vita Hasten, Holmstrom recorded 2 points. Holmstrom is not a goal scorer by any means; I look at him as a Zach-Aston Reese type player. Holmstrom is not ready for the NHL now, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be ready next year.