Last week during his post-trade deadline press conference, Islanders g.m. Lou Lamoriello gave fans plenty of updates, one of which was about young Finnish defenseman, Robin Salo.
Lamoriello said, “And certainly, there’s another young man who will come over after his playoffs who is signed and that’s Salo.”
So, who is Robin Salo and why should Isles fans be excited over the 6’1” defenseman’s arrival?
Salo was the Isles’ second-round pick in the 2017 draft and has signed his entry level contract. He is currently playing in Sweden for Orebro after joining the club last season. In his first full season there he finished with 6 goals, 24 assists and a plus/minus of +17 through 51 games. Those 30 points were enough to land him in the top-ten for a defenseman.
The Finnish prospect has been making some noise among the ranks of the organization for some time now, and he looks ready to take the next step towards the NHL.
The organization’s prospect pool at the moment is quite thin. The addition of any player with NHL potential is a big deal. Especially one that’s a strong skating d-man with playmaking ability, like Salo. The development of this 22-year-old could be huge for an aging Isles roster that lacks offensive difference makers and another valuable piece to what is considered one of the top defensive cores in the league.
In the first round of the Swedish Hockey Leagues’ playoffs, Orebro swept Leksands IF. Salo had four assists and averaged over 18 minutes of ice time. As the Islanders try to become perennial Cup contenders, they need players that thrive on the big stage. Salo is showing he might have that coveted clutch gene.
The SHL is one of the world’s top leagues. When leaving Finland for Sweden Salo told reporters, “I think you can get a bit more ready for the NHL here.” It is clear he wants to prove he can make it at the top level.
Isles fans should be giddy, but don’t expect him to make an impact for the varsity anytime soon. The jury is still out on Salo and whether he can be NHL level. From all accounts his game is improving, but like The Athletic’s Corey Pronman pointed out in last month; “I think he has a chance to play in the league and is worth giving a contract as they recently did, but I don’t think he’s a lock to play.”
Not many players are a lock to find their way into an NHL lineup. Sebastian Aho, a three-time AHL All-Star, was part of that 2017 draft class and has yet to be able to earn a spot in this Isles lineup.
Salo has exceled in his first full season in the SHL and has now earned the opportunity to prove that he is ready to play at the next level. His journey to don an Isles sweater will begin in Bridgeport where he will have to prove he belongs.
As a prospect that is still raw, there are more questions than answers as he prepares to make the jump to America. In the best-case scenario, his skating and playmaking ability could remind Islander fans of Nick Leddy. In the worst-case scenario, Salo will be another prospect quickly forgotten.
We will all just have to wait and see.
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryandunni