After dropping their first two games of the season over the weekend, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers received a roster boost from the Islanders on Wednesday when the parent team reassigned forwards Otto Koivula and Dmytro Timashov from taxi squad down to their American Hockey League affiliate. For both players, it’s a chance to get some ice time with the hope that they can get the call back up to Long Island at some point.
“I think it’s huge to get into game shape and just to play games and see the action in a game making your reads at game speed,” said Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson. I think it’s really important that they get the looks in the game. We’re very fortunate to have two skilled guys at that level with our young guys and being able to play with (2019 first round pick Simon) Holmstrom, a young prospect and obviously we want to surround him with as much support. I think those two guys will really help that.”
Last season, Koivula played in 12 regular season games with the Islanders but did not register a point. He was with the Islanders during the playoffs in the bubble and this season has been on the Isles’ taxi squad. Timashov, aside from playing in one game this season, has been on the taxi squad this season after being acquired by the Islanders from the Red Wings during the off-season in exchange for future considerations.
Getting both players will certainly help the Sound Tigers up front but it also means that some of the veteran players in Bridgeport like Andrew Ladd, Tom Kuhnhackl and Tanner Fritz will have to be patient when it comes to playing time. That’s because with a pandemic-shortened 24 game AHL regular season, the emphasis is on giving the young players more of a look to give them experience and give them a chance to grow.
“We’re trying to get a lot of our young guys in right away to see where they’re at,” said Thompson. “And now with the numbers higher, those are the priorities. We want to make sure that (the veterans are) ready to play for their opportunity to go (to the NHL) again but we also understand that some of these young guys need their time too.”
Koivula figures to be in the mix to get a callup from Bridgeport if the Islanders need another forward because of injury, illness, or health and safety protocols. Now in his third professional season, the native of Nokia, Finland has scored 30 goals to go along with 38 assists for 68 points over two campaigns with the Sound Tigers. He’s certainly caught the eye of Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz in terms of his development over the last couple of seasons.
But being on the Islanders’ taxi squad and not playing in any games was not helping him.
“Otto has come a long way,” said Trotz. “I think he’s a really good player. He’s got length, he’s got hockey IQ, and he’s a big body so skating was always a concern. His skating has improved. He needs to play. He’s still a young player. I like where he is in terms of his growth and who knows if we get some injuries or whatever he can get back and at least he’s playing.”
Both Koivula and Timashov practiced with the Sound Tigers on Wednesday and they could be in the lineup on Saturday afternoon for the home opener against the Providence Bruins at Webster Bank Arena.