As they prepare for a three-game road trip over the next week, the New York Islanders this morning announced the return of Otto Koivula to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.
Koivula, 21, is a big winger-turned-center who got his NHL debut this season a little sooner than expected. After Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson converted him to center early last season, he had a terrific year in the AHL which accelerated the timeline for when he might get some NHL time.
As the Islanders faced some injuries and a still-nagging hole at center, Koivula was recalled in mid November.
However, he only appeared in six games during his callup, with most games between six and nine minutes. His final appearance included just 4:26 of ice time against Columbus, though that was in part due to a middle period filled with special teams situations. He did not play in any of the previous three games on the schedule.
So there were no points, just two shots on goal, and not a lot of ice time. At age 21 and ahead of schedule it’s not necessarily a failed debut; at minimum, a mandatory orientation that indicates the need for more training.
The Shape at Center
Koivula was clearly in the mix to be the fifth or sixth center on the organizational depth chart once Derick Brassard was signed. But Brassard’s early drought at center prompted Barry Trotz to move him to wing, which opened up some opportunities — Cole Bardreau also got a look at center for nine NHL games before Koivula got his shot.
This week, however, in a search for more “predictability and consistency” among his painters-turned-artists, Trotz returned Brassard to center as part of a multi-line remix. He liked the results in last night’s 3-2 overtime win over Vegas.
Meanwhile, the Sound Tigers have battled several injuries and are in Utica and Syracuse this weekend. Koivula should help there, and getting more than a handful of shifts each night should help him.