Recently, I was fortunate to get a hold of LA Kings prospect Otto Salin for an eight-question interview.
Otto Salin was the LA Kings’ fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL entry draft (148th overall) and is expected to clock in larger minutes with HIFK of the Liiga this upcoming season. Last year Salin appeared in only six games with HIFK and had 1 point. Salin had also gone over a point per game with HIFK U20 of the U20 SM-sarja. He tallied four goals and 12 points in only 11 games as a defenseman, immediately making him a highly-regarded prospect.
While Salin did show up for the Hlinka Gretzky cup in 2021 and tallied an impressive four points in five games, things took a sudden and heartbreaking turn as Otto had undergone a crushing injury that caused him to miss a huge chunk of time. Then there were personal Covid issues for him which had set him back even longer.
Things had looked dark and gloomy for the 18-year-old kid as his stock began to fall. Because of his injury and unluckiness, he hadn’t been performing as well as people would’ve wanted him to, and that caused him to fall in the NHL entry draft. While I always had faith in the Helsinki, Finland native (I had him ranked 81st overall), it appears as if NHL teams didn’t.
Except for the LA Kings, that is.
The Kings went ahead and selected Salin at 148th overall, and it was mutual excitement as Salin was happy to be a part of the Los Angeles Kings.
As his season in Finland comes in at a vast approach, I was lucky enough to land an interview with the Finnish defenseman. I was able to ask him a few questions about his upcoming season in Finland and even a few questions about the LA Kings.
Do you model your play style after any NHL players? If you do, which ones?
“I don’t think I model my play style after anyone. I just do ‘me’ out there. But of course, I watch players like (Miro) Heiskanen, (Cale) Makar, (Adam) Fox, and (Charlie) McAvoy and see how they make up plays in different situations.”
It was interesting to see Otto grab the bull by the horns and say that he does his best to be the best of himself. He mentions how he enjoys watching NHL star defenders (especially home country player Miro Heiskanen who happened to play for both HIFK U20 and HIFK), but it was refreshing to learn that he enjoys being himself on the ice and doing what he does best.
You’re expected to play a lot more games with HIFK this year. As an individual, what are your goals and expectations for yourself this upcoming season?
“Yea, for the upcoming season I’m just trying to get a bigger role in the HIFK men’s team and play a healthy season after last year’s battle with injuries and Covid.”
It’s no shock that Salin’s stock fell in the 2022 draft due to those unfortunate events. NHL teams chose to take supposedly “safer” options by going with players who had fully healthy seasons. But the truth is that Otto Salin is a special hockey player who had a number of setbacks last season. Due to his injuries and covid issues, he’s had to battle adversity to prove himself a player. It’s clear that he wants better, and he wants to prove that he is a great, young player.
How did it feel when you found out the LA Kings selected you in the draft? Are you planning on joining in on team events such as development camps in upcoming seasons?
“Of course, it felt good when I heard my name in the draft. LA interviewed me at the combine, and I guess it went well. Let’s hope I can stay healthy so I can participate in next year’s development camp.”
Kings fans were very happy to see your name get on the board. Super lucky to have you here.
“I’m happy to hear that!”
As Otto had mentioned, the LA Kings had interviewed him at the combine in Buffalo a few weeks before the draft. Salin attended the combine but did not attend the NHL draft. He found out about the draft selection later. Otto had not been at this year’s development camp in mid-July due to injuries and other circumstances that kept him out. Hopefully, he’ll be well enough to attend the development camp in 2023, so Kings fans can watch the 18-year-old defender in person.
What do you believe your strengths and weaknesses are on the ice?
“My strengths are my skating, vision, and passing skills. What I need to work on is my defensive side of the game like box-outs, defensive zone positioning, and gap control.”
I’ve noticed that you like to shoot as well. The Kings have been needing a defensive shooter. This feels like a really good fit.
“Yeah, I think I’ve got a pretty good shot, but I have to work on the accuracy.”
When watching Otto, I’ve noticed how much he hates playing in the defensive zone. He’s got a natural offensive instinct, and that’s why he has a passion to shoot the puck and create plays outside his zone. Scouting Otto last season made me realize that even though his defensive talents need a bit of a brush-up, the offensive talent and his toolbox full of intangibles such as speed and charisma feels unbeatable. It’s a great sign to see him aware of his working areas so that he knows what he must do to become the perfect player.
Who is your favorite LA King of all time?
“I have to admit that I don’t know Kings players throughout the time well. But I like (Drew) Doughty. He’s a good player, and I like the hilarious chirps that I’ve heard him say to the opponents.”
Where do you hope to see yourself five years from now?
“In the NHL, of course. It would be a plan that no later than five years from now, I will have developed so much that I can regularly play in the best league in the world. That’s what I strive for.”
That’s a mindset that I love to hear from prospects. Determination and confidence are something that boosts young players to become better than anyone else. Having a sharp mindset with a goal in mind to strive for what’s best will put players ahead of others, and that’s exactly what I understood from Otto.
What type of hockey player can Kings fans expect from Otto Salin?
“A very confident defenseman that likes to play with the puck, likes to jump in rushes, and is a little show-off sometimes, and of course a guy that doesn’t back down. I like to help my teammates out, too.”
Final question. Do you have anything you’d like to tell LA Kings fans who are excited to see you wear black and silver soon?
“I want them to know that I am very excited to be chosen by the Kings and that I’m looking forward to hopefully in the future play the LA Kings jersey.”
A massive thank you to Otto for taking the time to speak with me. He’s a fantastic player and an even better person. It will be so much fun to watch him take on bigger extremes this season with HIFK, and we hope for a successful and healthy season for him out in Finland.