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Islanders prospect scores highlight reel backhand goal

Otto Koivula #21 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Otto Koivula #21 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Out on loan in Finland, New York Islanders prospect Otto Koivula scored a stunning backhand goal for HIFK.

New York Islanders prospect Otto Koivula has been out on loan with Finnish side HIFK for the better part of a month now. And while Koivula took a few games to get himself going, once he got off the blocks he’s been a force for HIFK.

Koivula made his debut for HIFK this season on October 13. In his first two games, he didn’t register a point or even a shot on goal. But over his next eight games, Koivula has scored nine points.

His most recent point, a goal in a 7-1 rout over Karpat, was an absolute beauty.

Between the Legs

HIFK was already up 3-1 as the game shifted to the third period. Working the puck behind the goal line two minutes into the third, Emil Bemstrom (Columbus Blue Jackets) finds Koivula alone in the slot. But instead of just rifling the puck on net, the Islanders fourth-round pick from 2016 slips the puck between his legs (while simultaneously stumping the goalie) before slotting the puck with a simple backhand into an open net.

Talk about a pretty goal in a tight spot for the big 6’4″ 220lbs forward.

The Islanders clearly think they have something in Koivula. In his first professional season in North America, Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson converted the Finnish winger to a center where Koivula flourished with 21 goals and 46 points.

This year, Koivula bounced between the AHL and NHL. In 36 AHL games, he produced 22 points. That’s 0.61 points-per-game, a pace that would have had him score 42 points if he had played a similar amount of games as his 2018-19 season.

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While we often talk about Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows getting a start in the NHL for 20-21, maybe we overlook the contributions that Otto Koivula brings to the table. After all, Barry Trotz has gone on the record saying he likes the then 21-year-olds defensive game and that he has “a lot of trust in putting him on the ice.”

Maybe it’s Koivula, who’s in the final year of an ELC with a $786,666 cap hit and, perhaps just as importantly, is trusted by the coach, who gets a spot on the opening night roster for 20-21.

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