HIFK Helsinki head coach Ville Peltonen discusses Otto Salin and what to expect in the future from the LA Kings prospect.
In recent years, the LA Kings have put a great deal of future emphasis on talent from Finland. As a matter of fact, last month’s events marked a unique trend. For the third time in four years, the silver-and-black drafted at least one prospect from Suomen tasavalta.
The most recent of those draft selections was defenseman Otto Salin, who was chosen in the fifth round, 148th overall, at last month’s draft in Montreal.
“Otto came with us and it was his first summer with the pro team,” Peltonen noted. “Really, it was something that he was stepping into: becoming a professional hockey player. I think he’s really willing to put in all the effort and commit to that process fully.”
Being that he just turned 18 this past March, time is definitely on Otto Salin’s side. Fortunately, that gives the youngster plenty of room to improve upon – and he will need it.
“I think he still has a lot of things to learn and there’s definitely a lot of potential,” Peltonen observed. “We were able to bring him along and he really surprised everybody and had a really strong training camp.”
Unfortunately, the injury bug affected Salin’s progression this past season – his first in SM-Liiga. Peltonen, however, is undeterred, as is Salin himself. That is impressive considering the amount of setbacks the youngster had to endure last year.
“He got injured a little bit and then we had to bring him along a little bit after he recovered from his injury,” Peltonen said. “Then, a couple games where he played and got a little bit unlucky. He had a lot of injuries during that rest of the season. It was very few games where he played for us and was able to gain some of that flare back that he was showing in training camp in January. But then, we had a lot of breaks because of the COVID situation and some games that Otto came back and played, he injured himself two more times. Last one was in the U-18 tournament. So, it really was a strange season for him.”
While he only managed to suit up for four games at the Under-18s this past year, Salin was nonetheless effective. During his brief stint in the tournament, the Helsinki native registered a pair of assists en route to Finland capturing the bronze. Salin also recently upped his physical game.
“The most he gained was upper-body strength. But we are really being cautious this offseason to make sure that he will stay healthy now when he comes back,” Peltonen noted. “He’s just gonna play for us and be even more part of our team this year, hopefully, and looking forward to that. Just talking to him [last] week and he’s progressing good.”
A veteran player of over 20 years, Ville Peltonen spent eight of those seasons in the NHL. Suiting up for San Jose, Nashville, and Florida, the former winger knows a thing or two about good conditioning and what it takes to become a better player.
Since retiring in 2014, however, Peltonen moved right into the coaching ranks. From HIFK Helsinki to Bern and Lausanne in Switzerland, to representing Finland at multiple tournaments, Peltonen is a season veteran behind the bench. Salin is just one of many players who benefit from Peltonen’s expertise – something the new LA Kings prospect needs right now.
“He needs coaches,” Peltonen said. “Maybe some guys don’t always need coaches as much but some guys need a little bit more. At the moment, I think Otto needs coaching a little bit more than maybe some other guys. I think he knows that too. He’s learning and he’s building those habits that give him just another opportunity to learn more.”
As for the youngster’s attitude, Peltonen was quick to point out that it’s a non-issue for Salin
“That’s not an issue for Otto,” emphasized the former NHLer. “He takes all the feedback looking you straight in the eye. I think it’s one of those situations where young athletes in general — and Otto is one of them — are not sure yet what is needed and we are guiding him along that path where he knows what is needed. There’s a lot of a lot of new things. There’s also a lot of raising the bar, so to say. That’s what’s happening. It’s not always something that will stick with him.”
Otto Salin will soon be starting his sophomore campaign for Ville Peltonen and HIFK Helsinki. When he does, the 18-year-old will be stronger with another year of pro hockey under his belt. That is, of course, if he can remain healthy.