Otto Koivula knew he was drafted by the New York Islanders before any of his friends or family found out.
On day two of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, his family gathered around the television at their home in Nokia, Finland. Koivula was there too, but it was by scrolling through Twitter that he found out he was the 120th pick in the fourth round.
“Then like 10 seconds after that, everybody saw (on TV) and it was crazy,” Koivula said. “My siblings were so happy, and my parents were so happy. Just a great moment.”
Now more than two years removed from his draft day, Koivula is making an impression on the organization that chose him, however, it didn't come without some seasoning back in Finland first.
Koivula grew up playing the majority of his amateur hockey in Tampere, Finland – just under a 20 minute drive from Nokia. He skated for Ilves in the Jr. SM-Liiga, which is the SM-Liiga's (Finnish Elite League) youth hockey program.
If players find consistent success at the youth level in Finland, they have the opportunity to move up into the SM-Liiga and play for their parent team at the nation's highest level of hockey in their late-teenage years (similar to current Finnish superstars Mikko Rantanen with TPS and both Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov with Taparra.)
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