The 2018 World Junior Classic is on its way in Buffalo starting on Tuesday, with the first matchup being the Czech Republic versus Russia at noon EST. With that, one question arises; which Islanders prospects are making their way to the World Juniors this year?
Kieffer Bellows, Team USA
Bellows, who was the Islanders first round pick in 2016, is tearing it up with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (19 goals, 40 points in 31 games), and he is making his second trip to the World Juniors. Last year on the gold medal-winning team, Bellows played more of a minor role, scoring two goals and three points as well as being a +2 in seven games during the USA’s 7-0 run on their way to gold. Bellows will have a prime opportunity to contribute both on and off the ice. Bellows was recently named as one of Team USA’s alternate captains, joining returning defenseman Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren, as well as captain Joey Anderson.
Otto Koivula, Team Finland
Koivula was the Islanders fourth-round pick in 2016 and is returning to team Finland for this year’s tournament. Playing on Ilves in Liiga this year, he has been playing well, scoring four goals and 18 points in 32 games. Last year on Team Finland, he didn’t produce at all, being held scoreless and being a -2 in six games. As one of the returning forwards this year for the Finns, Islanders fans should hope for Koivula to get a better chance of getting on the score sheet.
Robin Salo, Team Finland
As the Islanders top pick in this past year’s draft in the second round, Islanders fans had high expectations for Salo this year in the Liiga; however, the defenseman, who isn’t known for having a touch for scoring, has only three assists this season, in 27 games for Sport. As the only Islander prospect heading to the World Juniors without participating in the tournament previously, it will be interesting to see how Salo plays against players the same age as him considering how he is playing in Liiga, which is Finland’s professional hockey league.
We will see Salo and Koivula play Bellows as both Finland and the U.S. are in Group A. Which of the three Islanders prospects heading to the World Juniors are you most interested to watch play? Leave a comment down below and make sure to catch all the action starting on Tuesday at noon on NHL Network!