Schwartz: Is Otto Next On The Isle?

After Friday night’s game in Washington, the Islanders will enjoy an off night before hosting the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. But if you’re an Islanders fan that is hungry for a little more hockey and a glimpse of the future, then a drive to Webster Bank Arena (weather permitting) to see the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Isles’ AHL affiliate, take on the Providence Bruins is a pretty good idea.

The Islanders have already called up prospects Devon Toews and Michael Dal Colle this season and there could be more on the way like Josh Ho-Sang who could possibly return at some point. But a name to look at, especially if you come to the game on Saturday, is 20 year old left winger Otto Koivula.

In his first AHL season, the skilled forward from Finland is currently fourth on the Sound Tigers in scoring with 12 goals, 13 assists and 25 points in 38 games.

“It’s exciting,” said the Islanders 4th round pick in 2016. “It’s been good here so far. I like Bridgeport and we have a good team here. I’ve been playing with (Josh) Ho-Sang, (Michael) Dal Colle, Chris Bourque and some other good guys so it’s been fun.”

Another big reason for Koivula’s strong play has been the guidance of Head Coach Brent Thompson who is responsible for getting players to learn the Islanders’ system and to be ready to play in the NHL. Thompson has played a big role in other Sound Tigers getting the call up to Long Island and he has already had a big impact on Koivula.

“Thommer has been a big help for me,” said Koivula. “I like him. We have good chemistry and he’s a good coach. Dal Colle, (Toews) and Ho-Sang got the call up so it shows that Thommer is doing such a good job with the young players.

Prior to coming to North America, Koivula spent two full seasons with IIves (Finnish for “Lynx”) in Finland’s Liiga and scored 19 goals, 38 assists and 57 points in 104 games. Koivula has adjusted to the North Amercan style of play and has been a big part of the Sound Tigers’ success this season.

Bridgeport currently sits in 2nd place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division with 22 wins, 14 losses, 4 overtime losses and 2 shootout losses. While the Sound Tigers have done their share of winning, so has the parent club as the Islanders are chasing first place in the Metropolitan Division. With the club is Koivula’s former linemate Michael Dal Colle who scored his first NHL goal in Thursday night’s win over the Devils.

First Dal Colle…is Koivula next?

“It’s good to see that Dal Colle is doing well up there,’ said Koivula. “It shows that I have a chance too. I feel confident but I don’t worry about that. I just keep working hard every day. I don’t want to rush it. There’s time…I’m still young.”

A trip to Bridgeport is a terrific experience for hockey fans. Webster Bank Arena is a great venue and Islanders fans can get a first hand look at the future before they potentially get the call up to Long Island. Koivula could be the next Sound Tiger to get that call from General Manager Lou Lamoriello.

And he’s paying close attention to what’s happening on Long Island.

“I watch the Islanders games a lot,” said Koivula. “They’re doing so well right now. It’s a good organization with good coaching and a good staff. And there’s a couple of Finnish guys Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov so it’s fun to see them playing.”

A trip to Bridgeport doesn’t just include a look at Koivula and Ho-Sang but Islanders fans also get to see 2016 first round pick left winger Kieffer Bellows along with blue line prospects Sebastian Aho and Mitchell Vande Sompel. And while the Islanders are creating noise in the NHL giving their fans hope for that elusive 5th Stanley Cup, some future Islanders are having a good season in the AHL with their sights set on the Calder Cup.

“We’re doing well,” said Koivula. “We have a good team and we trust each other and we trust our structure. It’s going to be exciting in the second half of the season and to get ready for the playoffs.”

It’s been a special season so far for the entire Islanders organization. The parent team is the biggest story in the NHL with their success under new General Manger Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Barry Trotz and some of that success has rubbed off on the boys in Bridgeport as the Sound Tigers are making some waves of their own.

One of those Tigers is Otto Koivula who just might be crossing the Long Island Sound in the not too distant future. In the meantime, it’s worth the drive to Bridgeport to see Koivula and the other Sound Tigers strut their stuff on the Webster Bank Arena ice.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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