The 2020-21 SHL season came to a close for New York Islanders prospect Robin Salo. With a 3-1 loss to Vaxjo in Game 5 of their second-round series, Salo’s Orebro side was eliminated from the SHL playoffs.
Now holding a fresh two-year contract with the Islanders- with a 20-21 start date – the next step in his professional hockey career will be in North America. Lou Lamoriello indicated as much about a month ago.
So, with the season over, I caught up with Robin to talk about this 20-21 season, get a bit of backstory on him as a player, and the answer everyone is looking for: when is he coming to North America.
Prospect Robin Salo on 20-21 season and joining New York Islanders
“I think it was probably my best season in professional hockey.” That’s how Salo characterized his 20-21 season with Orebro. And it’s impossible to dispute that.
In 51 games with the SHL side, Salo scored six goals and had 30 points. That’s 0.588 points per game. His best year at the Liiga level saw him score 21 points in 46 games or 0.457 points per game.
As he reflected on his decision to join Orebro, Salo was clear. “This was the right” choice for me.
"I think I took a step in the right direction in going to Sweden and picking Orerbo. So happy I picked this team and getting to be a part of this. I scored a good amount of points and I’m happy about that. Maybe should have scored more goal. Maybe a little frustrated about that. Otherwise, I did my best and got a lot of help from the coachs this year too. I definitely developed. I got better in a couple of areas. It was the right choice to come here."
Salo had a few options on the table when he made that transfer from the Finnish Liiga to Sweden. All of those options were of course in Europe. But of all the options on the table, he chose Orebro a team with a defensive identity that prides itself on it’s structure. Sound familiar?
With that strong year, Salo earned himself a two-year ELC from the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2017 NHL draft. We were told that once the SHL season was over for Salo that he would make his way to North America. So, now that the season is over, is headed states side?
"As soon as possible was the plan. But I don’t know right now. I’m talking to my agent right now. I can’t really say. I don’t have everything on the table yet. It’s day-by-day right now. I don’t know for sure yet when that is."
It was clear in our discussion that the shortened AHL season was a factor as to why his travel to the US and joining the Islanders wasn’t that pressing yet. He will make his way once all the paperwork is cleared but from what I can tell there is no sense of urgency.
We know what he’s done in Sweden, and even what he’s done out in Finland before that. But we don’t know much if anything about the origins of Robin Salo.
Does he mold his game after anyone? Is there anyone he idolized growing up? Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo is someone Salo idolizes as an athlete, and it’s hard to question that sentiment. Ronaldo is an absolute star and has been seemingly at the peak of his powers for way longer than is imaginable.
But in terms of hockey, Salo has been a huge fan of Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
"In hockey, I watched Sidney Crosby a lot when I was younger. I played forrward for quite some time. I don’t remember when I made the switch. But at some point, maybe 12 or so, I realized (and my dad told me too) that I had a better chance by playing defense. I thought why not?"
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The move to defense was clearly the right call for him. After excelling in Finland and now in Sweden it’s time for the next step in his career. Don’t expect him to hit the ice until the 2021-22 season.