With the deadline on the horizon for retaining the rights to 2016 draft picks, the New York Islanders announced the agreement to terms for Finnish forward Otto Koivula, their fourth-round pick (120th overall) in that year’s draft.
Koivula was named rookie of the year in Finland’s Liiga after putting up 10 goals and 20 assists in 50 games in 2016-17 with Ilves. This past season (2017-18 is now concluded there) his production was similar, nine goals and 18 assists in 53 games, ranking him fifth in points on the team.
The deal is your standard three-year entry level contract. It doesn’t require that he play in North America next season, though we’ll learn more about plans for the player and team later.
At the time of his draft, Koivula’s hands and shot were well regarded while his skating was not. He’s played for Finland in both the 2017 and 2018 World Junior Championships but not as a top line player. He has size (6’4”, 220 lbs.). So, file under: project.
Here’s a look at four goals from the beginning of his Ligga career, two from working and taking a beating in front of the net on the power play, a third with a straight wrister from the faceoff circle, and finally some nifty hands in tight:
Super thrilled and honoured to sign my first NHL contract with @NYIslanders Thanks to everyone who has made this possible for me! Special thanks to my family. Can't wait to get things started!! #isles pic.twitter.com/ft3gVPovh8— otto koivula (@koivula4) March 21, 2018
The Rest of the Class
The Isles had six selections in the 2016 draft: Kieffer Bellows (1st round, 19th) is signed and headed for either the AHL or NHL next season after a good year with WHL Portland. Anatoli Golyshev (4th round, 95th) is doing well but in the KHL, so they aren’t in danger of losing his rights.
Then came Koivula (now signed), Collin Adams (6th round, 170th), Nick Pastujov (seventh round, 193rd) and David Quenneville (7th round, 200th). Adams just completed his first year at NCAA North Dakota, so his rights remain with the Isles while he’s in college. Likewise, Pastujov just finished his second NCAA year at Michigan.
That leaves Quenneville as the one who the Isles must sign this spring or he can re-enter the draft. And though he was their last pick, he’s the second best prospect from the Isles’ class right now, racking up points (80 in 70 games) as a defenseman for WHL Medicine Hat.
Back to Otto
Here’s a look at Otto’s best moments: