The IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championships begin Tuesday, 12/26 in Buffalo, NY. There are three New York Islanders prospects representing their countries. Here’s your guide to watching for these elite Isles youngsters.
The New York Islanders have been lucky enough to accumulate their fair share of high draft picks in recent years. Over the past decade, along with some clunkers, the Islanders have mostly drafted well. Whether they made it to the NHL with the Isles or were traded for other pieces, there haven’t been more than a handful of wasted picks.
Three of the Islanders recent draft picks were selected to compete for their respective nations at the IIHF Juniors. Kieffer Bellows will be an alternate captain for Team USA, while Robin Salo and Otto Koivula will be playing for Finland. All three players are expected to play integral parts in their teams’ quests for gold.
Robin Salo, D – Finland
The New York Islanders selected defenseman Robin Salo in the 2nd round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, 46th overall. Salo, 19, has been with Sport in the Finnish league Liiga, for the past two years. Salo is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings, with only 19 points and a minus 13 plus/minus rating over 101 games played.
In the Junior A league from 2014-16, Salo thrived. Over 72 games he logged 43 points on 20 goals and 23 assists. Once Salo gets used to the higher-quality of play at Finland’s highest level, his numbers should reflect accordingly.
Robin Salo is penciled in as a 2nd-pair defenseman for Finland in their preliminary round in Group A.
Otto Koivula, FW – Finland
In 2016, the New York Islanders selected Otto Koivula with their 4th round pick, 120th overall. Over the past three seasons with Ilves, also in the Finnish league Liiga, Koivula has played in 83 games. He has 48 points over that time, with 14 goals and 34 assists and a minus 22 rating.
Like Robin Salo, Koivula excelled in the Finnish Junior A league, scoring 68 points over 71 games with a plus 24 rating. As he progresses, his comfortability at the next level should translate into similar dynamite numbers.
Kieffer Bellows, FW – USA
Kieffer Bellows will be an alternate captain for Team USA in Buffalo. The New York Islanders drafted Bellows 19th overall in the 1st round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In 2014-15, as a 16-year-old, Bellows put up a monster season with the Sioux City Stampede of the USHL. Over 58 games, Kieffer scored 33 goals, assisted on 19 others and had a plus 10 plus/minus rating
In 2015-16 while playing with the US National U18 team, Kieffer Bellows led all players with 81 points in 62 games. He scored 50 goals and added 31 assists. This is the performance that solidified Kieffer Bellows as a first-round draft pick in 2016.
After performing at an adequate level for Boston University in 2016-17 (14 points in 34 games played), Bellows has been a dynamo for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Through his first 31 games, he’s logged 40 points with 19 goals and a plus 22 rating.
Both Finland and the United States start the IIHF Junior World Championships in Group A. They are joined by Canada, Denmark, and Slovakia. There is no doubt the New York Islanders three prospects will get plenty of exposure playing in this high-profile preliminary group.
Follow the 2018 IIHF Junior World Championships on their website, http://2018.worldjunior.hockey/.