Islanders: Otto Koivula continues to train as Liiga suspends play

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) /

The Finnish Liiga has now suspended play for some time, meaning New York Islanders Otto Koivula could be headed back from loan soon.

On Tuesday the Mestis league suspended play for the remainder of the calendar year. Putting into question Jakub Skarek’s loan spell with Peliitat. Skarek was loan out by the New York Islanders to the Mestis side in the middle of November and had only played four games since his return to Finland.

What happens next for Skarek is still unclear, mainly because when the 2020-21 NHL and AHL will begin is also unclear. You can now add Otto Koivula to that list of players who could return soon. The Finnish first division (Liiga) has also decided to suspend play for a few weeks as Coronavirus numbers spike in Finland.

Break in Play

The Liiga announced on Wednesday that it will suspend all play between December 3 and December 19. With a Christmas break, that means play won’t resume until at least boxing day.

The Islanders have three of their prospects playing in Finland’s top division.

  • Otto Koivula is on loan to Helsinki side HIFK.
  • Ruslan Iskhakov (2018 2nd round pick) is on a year-long deal with TPS.
  • Matias Rajaniemi (2020 6th round pick) is playing with the Lathi Pelicans.

For the latter two (Iskhakov and Rajaniemi) their immediate future remains stable. They’ll both continue to train with the team during the break and resume play with the team once the season starts back up again. That isn’t the same for Koivula.

He’s on loan with HIFK and as such could be recalled at any point. For now, he will stay and continue to train with the rest of the HIFK squad. A team spokesman confirmed to me today that all loan players will remain and train with the team for the time being.

Which is good news. While Koivula might not be playing games he’s at least training with the squad. Whether he remains in Finland for the restart of the 2020-21 season remains to be seen.

The NHL is determined to get their 20-21 season started on January 1. Although I’m not sure how they navigate the deep economic issues that currently divide the NHL and NHLPA in time to start in less than a month. But, if that’s still the goal, Koivula would likely have to head back across the Atlantic in a week or two in order to quarantine and be ready for training camp.

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In 14 games with HIFK Otto Koivula has scored an impressive eleven points (3G, 8A). He may not be everyone’s favorite to earn a spot on the Islanders third line in 20-21 but I feel like Koivula’s chances are being underrated. His strong defensive play alone makes him a good option.