Otto Koivula has been playing well back over in Finland on loan. Here’s why there’s a chance he can end up on line three for the Islanders.
When the New York Islanders return to play in 2021, they’ll likely have all but two forward slots filled out. Lines one, two, and four are expected to remain the same while line three, outside of JG Pageau, is a question mark.
There’s certainly a chance the Islanders bring back Derick Brassard on a cheap deal, but if the Isles decide to go with what they have outside of Brass returning, most will say that it comes down to Michael Dal Colle, Leo Komarov, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Kieffer Bellows for those remaining spots.
I have another idea, well for at least one of those spots. I’d like to deploy Otto Koivula on the left side of JG Pageau.
Koivula has been an interesting prospect for the Islanders. He was selected in the fourth round In 2016 and after a couple of solid years in Finland made his way over to the AHL. The six-foot-four 220 pound Koivula had a very productive first year in the A, in 2018-2019.
He finished his season with 21 goals and 46 points in 69 games with Bridgeport. This past season, he split time between the AHL and NHL. He put up 22 points in 36 games in the A, and didn’t record a point for the Islanders in the NHL.
Some will see the zero points in 12 games and immediately pass over him but with a little more context we can find that he was never really put in positions to be offensive. Koivula played double-digit minutes just twice in 12 games. He was under eight minutes of ice time in eight of those 12 games.
According to Natural Stat Trick, he started just 44.4 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. While clearly, he wasn’t put into offensive positions Barry Trotz did say that he trusts him in the defensive zone:
"“I trust him in the defensive zone more than anything,”"
For Barry Trotz, trust in the defensive zone is a big thing. To me, I think that could potentially give him an edge over the other two youngsters in Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom who are more offensive.
To Koivula’s credit though, he’s been solid offensively in Finland on loan putting up 11 points in 14 games. The offense should start to come around, especially if he’s rolling with JG Pageau as his center.
Ideally, I’d like to See Koivula – Pageau – Wahlstrom be the third line. Michael Dal Colle is pretty much flat-lined and doesn’t play on the power play or penalty kill, while Leo Komarov is pretty much only effective on the penalty kill.
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We have to wait and see what happens with Brassard and the cap situation first before we go all In on line discussions but I do think some are sleeping on Otto Koivula. The kid should at minimum get an extended look in training camp.