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Islanders Prospect Report: World Juniors Preview

Three Islanders prospects will compete in junior showcase; Dec. 26 - Jan. 5 in Buffalo

by Dan Hanson, Megan McGuire & John Napolitano NYIslanders / New York Islanders

For hockey fans, the peak of the holiday season can only mean one thing: the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships are right on the doorstep.

This year, the annual junior showcase runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 and is taking place in Buffalo, NY. The games are being played at KeyBank Center and HarborCenter, as well as the first-ever outdoor World Juniors game between Team Canada and Team USA at New Era Field on Dec. 29. 

The New York Islanders have three prospects competing in this year's World Juniors. Isles 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows and Team USA will defend their championship, while 2017 second-round pick Robin Salo and 2016 fourth-round pick Otto Koivula will compete for Team Finland. See below for a full primer on all three prospects, as well as Team USA an Finland's schedules. Click here for daily updates.

KIEFFER BELLOWS (4GP, 4G, 0A, 4P)

Kieffer Bellows is returning for Team USA as the Americans get set to defend last year's gold medal. 

The Islanders' 2016 first round draft pick (19th overall) scored two goals and picked up one assist over the course of last year's tournament. Bellows notched both his goals in the gold medal game against Canada, where Team USA won in dramatic fashion after in a five-round shootout, 5-4. It was Team USA's first gold medal at the World Junior Championships since 2013. 

Bellows has a history of representing his country on the world stage. The Edina, MN native first represented USA Hockey in the Men's U18 World Championship in 2016, scoring five goals and grabbing three assists in seven games. The team finished with the bronze medal.

This past summer, the 19-year-old was invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan. Bellows finished with one assist and 13 shots on goal. Bellows' is currently playing for the WHLs Portland Winterhawks, where he is third on the team in points (40), goals (19), and assists (21). 

In two pre-tournament tune-ups before the World Junior preliminary round, Bellows notched two goals against Belarus to help Team USA to a 14-0 win. The team also defeated Sweden 3-1. 

Bellows is an alternate captain for this year's tournament. 

TEAM USA SCHEDULE: 

PRELIMINARY SCHEDULE
DATE TIME OPPONENT TV/RESULT
DEC 26 8 P.M. EST DENMARK W 9-0
DEC 28 8 P.M. EST SLOVAKIA L 3-2
DEC 29 3 P.M. EST CANADA (OUTDOOR GAME) W 4-3 SO
DEC 31 4 P.M. EST FINLAND W 5-4

 

ROBIN SALO (1GP, 0G, 0A 0P)

 

Defenseman Robin Salo is making his World Junior debut this year, as the 19-year-old will represent Team Finland. 

Salo previously played on Finland's roster during the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championships, where his team won gold after defeating Sweden 6-1. The previous year, Salo and Finland took home a silver medal at the IIHF U18s. 

The Islanders' 2017 second-round pick (46th overall) is currently playing for Vaasan Sport in Finland's Liiga. Salo made his Liiga debut at 16 and has played in 101 regular season games in Finland's top league. In 27 games this season for Sport, Salo has three assists and four penalty minutes along with a -8 rating.

The 19-year-old Salo isn't known for his flashy play, as he focuses more on his defensive game for Sport, though he was forced to play forward on an interim basis this season. Last season he recorded 16 points (1G, 15A) in 54 games for Vaasan.

OTTO KOIVULA (4GP, 0G, 2A, 2P) 

Otto Koivula, the Islanders' 2016 fourth-round pick, made his World Juniors debut last year representing Finland. The 6'4" forward took to the ice in six games during the tournament but was held off the scoresheet.

Since debuting on the international stage, Koivula returned to Liiga and his team, Ilves, where he's found continued success. The 19-year-old left winger closed out the 2016-17 regular season with 10 goals and 20 assists in 50 games for Ilves. Koivula's handiwork helped the Ilves secure a playoff berth which saw him convert five points (2G, 3A) in 10 games.

The Nokia, Finland native is on pace to put up similar numbers this season, as he's scored four goals with 14 assists in 32 games on the 2017-18 campaign.

Salo and Koivula are looking to lead Finland back to World Junior glory after a misstep last season. After winning gold in 2016, Finland was forced to compete in the relegation round after an early elimination from the preliminary round at the hands of the Czech Republic. The Finns finished ninth, marking the first time in the history of the event that the defending champion had to compete in the relegation round. The team finished with three wins and three losses, which sat them at ninth place.

TEAM FINLAND SCHEDULE: 

PRELIMINARY SCHEDULE
DATE TIME OPPONENT TV/RESULT
DEC 26 4 P.M. EST CANADA L 4-2
DEC 28 12 P.M. EST DENMARK W 4-1
DEC 30 4 P.M. EST SLOVAKIA W 5-2
DEC 31 4 P.M. EST USA L 5-4

ROSTERS: 

GROUP A: CANADA, DENMARK, FINLAND, SLOVAKIA, USA

GROUP B: BELARUS, CZECH REPUBLIC, RUSSIA, SWEDEN, SWITZERLAND


MEDAL ROUND SCHEDULE

QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE
DATE TIME OPPONENT TV/RESULT
JAN 2 12 P.M. EST CZE VS FIN NHL NETWORK
JAN 2 4 P.M. EST CAN VS SUI NHL NETWORK
JAN 2 6 P.M. EST SWE VS SVK NHL NETWORK
JAN 2 8 P.M. EST USA VS RUS NHL NETWORK
SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE
DATE TIME TEAMS TV/RESULT
JAN. 4 4 P.M. EST TBD NHL NETWORK
JAN. 4 8 P.M. EST TBD NHL NETWORK
BRONZE MEDAL GAME
JAN. 5 4 P.M. EST TBD NHL NETWORK
GOLD MEDAL GAME
JAN. 5 8 P.M. EST TBD NHL NETWORK
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