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Robin Salo’s Season in Review

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Robin Salo

The road to the National Hockey League for many players goes through the American Hockey League. Alongside veteran leaders, the stars of tomorrow fine-tune their game and, in the process, learn what it takes to be professionals.

The youngbloods of the Bridgeport Islanders gained valuable experience given their trip to the second round of the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003.

Due to the New York Islanders COVID-19 issues this season and injuries, we saw a few of what Bridgeport had to offer this season.

“I think any guy that got an opportunity to play in the NHL this year, whether it was Hutton, Salo, Ladue…the list goes on, even the call-up of Simon Holmstrom, just to be up in the practices and yet just to be around that it’s a huge advantage to know what it takes, how you have to prepare, the professionalism that goes on,” Thompson said. “And I think you, whenever you get a call-up, it just adds to your confidence, and I think that’s something that all these guys can take from that.”

Over the next few days, we will be breaking down the seasons for a few individuals.

We will kick things off with 23-year-old Robin Salo, who has just completed his first season in North America.

Robin Salo’s Experience

For Robin Salo, it was an exciting season and a learning experience for sure. He got a chance in the big leagues when Ryan Pulock went down with an injury, playing 21 games for the New York Islanders where he averaged 16:41 minutes per game.

In those 21 games, the 46th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft recorded his first career NHL goal, along with four assists, and showed off his skating ability, passing ability, and a quick hesitation move to create shooting lanes for himself at the blue line.

“It’s a tough league,” Robin Salo said following his first NHL goal. “I feel like it took some time to get used to but feel like just trying to build some confidence and trying to play a better role.”

In 40 regular-season games for Bridgeport, Salo recorded four goals and 16 assists. In six postseason games, Salo had a goal and an assist.

There was a time during the New York Islanders season when Salo was not recalled by the New York Islanders when an opportunity presented itself. Defenseman Parker Wotherspoon was called up in his place and Barry Trotz explained why.

“He hasn’t played as well as he’s needed to play,” Trotz said. “He should be an impact and the best defenseman down (there). He hasn’t been.”

And as a young player, that should serve as a lesson and also shows how the Islanders view Robin Salo, a player that should be vying for a role in the New York Islanders starting lineup for 2022-23.

Bridgeport General Manager Chris Lamoriello on Salo’s experience:

“Well, I think Robin was fortunate last year to be able to come over at the end of the season and experience what the Islander playoff run was about. “And coming into the training camp, I thought he was another one with a very good showing at camp. I think he made a quick transition as well. I think that the number of NHL games that he was able to get in, to the responsibility that he was given in Bridgeport, you know, puts him in a position again to get a lot of education between both leagues this year…The playoff experience that he just went through.”

“I think the transition for defensemen, like goaltenders coming over from Europe, is a little bit tougher than it is maybe for a forward, and I think that Robin appreciates the way he needs to play over here. The schedule was another thing that I think that he really was able to learn about how to deal with. So I think Robin is much more prepared. I think he had a very healthy on and off ice experience that, like all young players, had challenges, and I think he’s gonna be much stronger for it.”

Skating Ability of Robin Salo

The biggest skill set Robin Salo has in his arsenal is his skating ability. And his ability to not only use his legs to help the transition game, but it’s also a key skill to have in the offensive zone.

Back in October, Robin Salo netted the game-winning goal for Bridgeport against Springfield, as he showed off his edge work and ability to change direction on a dime.

And on Jan 17, Salo made a quick hesitation at the Philadelphia Flyers blue line, which created a shooting lane. Salo’s shot was then deflected by Casey Cizikas to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead.

“I think the strength of his game is, is he saw the Zeeker (Cizikas) score yesterday, that he has a lot of poise,” former New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Up top, he’s got good lateral movement, and he finds those lanes.”

Future Outlook of Robin Salo

With the New York Islanders down two defensemen in Zdeno Chara (pending retirement) and Andy Greene (pending retirement, Isles or no one), there is a spot for Robin Salo. But he is going to need to earn it.

I asked head coach Brent Thompson if he believes that Robin Salo is ready to be an everyday NHL player. Here is what he said:

“Well, I think everything is always, always depends on the player and his performance at the end of the day. But I look at him this year, and it’s an adjustment coming over from Europe to North America. The bigger rink, probably not quite as physical. In our division, in particular, is a very, very physical division. It’s, you know, obviously, the battles between Providence, Hartford, Springfield are always intense, regular season or playoffs, and I thought he handled it really well in that transition. There was some timeframe where he started the season really, really well. You know, his puck-moving ability, his offensive instincts were really good. And he got that call up, and then when he came back down, it was more an adjustment on his defensive side of the game, and that’s where I think he’s gonna have to really work is just get a little stronger and a little bit harder in his own end as far as maintaining the site positioning box and out and keeping with a simple puck movement.”

“But at the end of the day, he took huge strides. It was a great learning year for him to experience. One, the NHL, to see the tempo and the pace they play at to the battle levels as far as defensive zone and just how engaged he’s gonna have to be. And then, you know, being prepared next year with a little bit more strength and attacking it and so it’s really up to him how he comes into training camp. I think he’s got a good taste, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he comes in next year.”

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