Otto Koivula was returned on loan to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islanders AHL affiliate, on Friday. Koivula was most recently recalled from the Sound Tigers on Nov. 12, as the Islanders were battling the injury bug.
The 21-year-old Finn suited up in six games for the Isles, playing in both the left wing and the center position. While Koivula did not record a point in his six-game stint, he garnered an encouraging message from Head Coach Barry Trotz regarding his first stint in the NHL.
"For young players in this League, the game humbles you," Trotz said of the 6'4, 219 lbs forward. "You've got to skate out of pressure in this League. You've got to be able to use your assets. Otto is a really big guy, he's really strong on the puck, he's got a really good hockey IQ. I think in the American League or even in junior and in Europe, he can use his hands to get to that space and he can use his hands to keep people away. In this League, guys are stronger and the speed [of the game], you won't have the strength to just do that. You've got to use your feet to leverage your core strength and track from behind. Those types of things that lead to quick transition in our game. Those are things he has to learn. He's a young man who's [21-years-old] and he's a big load. Those guys take a while. Getting some practice time with us and getting to see the NHL, was a good experience for him. He didn't play large minutes, but he got to see it a little bit and feel it. He got to get it down and it'll be an important piece there in confidence."
Video: Practice Update 12/6: Barry Trotz
The Sound Tigers, who are ranked last in the Atlantic Division with a record of 8-12-4, get some offensive reinforcements from the Isles' 2016 fourth rounder (120th overall). Koivula has five points (2G, 3A) in 10 games for Bridgeport this season and registered 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) through 69 games in his rookie season. Koivula will join the Sound Tigers as they play a back-to-back against the Utica Comets on Friday, Dec. 6 and at the Syracuse Crunch on Dec. 7.
There's still progress and stages of refining to be executed in Koivula's game, but Trotz assured that the opportunity was a stepping stone in the right direction for the future NHLer.
"Next time he comes up, I guarantee he'll be even more prepared," Trotz said. "He'll be more experienced and more prepared that the next time he comes up, he's going to be more comfortable. I think that's the message; that you didn't fail. Some guys try all over their life to get to this point to play in an NHL game. It doesn't mean you failed. It just means it's the first step of the process. You've got another rung in the ladder just based on performance. Sometimes you take three steps forward and four steps backwards and then all of the sudden you're at the top of the wrung there. But it's not always going to go smoothly. Success isn't a straight line. There's a lot of hills and valleys to it."