Aatos Koivu’s life took a radical turn in the last few days. Saku’s son was rewarded for his outstanding offensive performances this season and for the first time received the call from the Finnish national team to invite him to a preparatory tournament for the U18 World Cup.
History wrote itself: the young Aatos would wear the jersey that his father wore with passion and honor during his great career on the international stage.
In Finland the media apparatus has been activated.
“It just exploded through the media,” says former NHL goalkeeper Fredrik Norrena, Aatos’ coach with TPS Turku’s U20 team, by phone. He wasn’t that well known and in a week and a half he became the most followed U18 player in the country.”
The Koivu family tries to protect the young man through this raging madness. The author of these lines tried to get an interview with Aatos, but was kindly told that this was not possible.
“Obviously Saku is trying to protect Aatos right now,” Norrena explains. The family wants him to stay away from the media for now.”
The reasons are very reasonable. All the headlines refer to “Saku’s son”. A pressure that can be difficult to bear.
“Let Aatos be Aatos,” Norrena pleads. Let him determine his own path. Saku’s brother Mikko was also there. He was a few years younger and [le jeu des comparaisons] was difficult for him to bear too.”
A remarkable debut
When news spread in early September that a certain Aatos Koivu was eligible for the next draft, internet users were surprised to see that, according to the EliteProspects database, he weighed only 126 pounds, meaning he was 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Due to this lack of physical maturity, the name Aatos has not gained any real traction in recent years in either North America or Finland. To be honest, the young striker hasn’t broken anything.
However, we have seen significant growth at Aatos over the last eight months.
“His physique has developed significantly over the last year,” notes Norrena. It’s strange to say considering he’s only 17, but he’s something of a late bloomer. He’s gotten stronger, and it shows in his skating and his ability to win battles for the puck.
“His shooting has also gotten better. He always had good vision and great skills with the puck, but was unable to demonstrate these qualities due to his physical disadvantage.
EliteProspects has updated Aatos’ measurements to now weigh 165 pounds.
Result: Aatos Koivu just isn’t the same player on the ice this season. After dominating the 18-and-under squad with 15 points in as many games, TPS Turku decision-makers moved him to the 20-and-under squad.
“You could see in the playoffs last year that he had made a lot of progress,” Norrena remembers. I told myself back then that he could play with us next year. After 15 games this season, he was his team’s best player among 18 and younger players.
Aatos’ debut in the U20 team was resounding: eight points, including five goals, in five games.
“When he arrived, I didn’t expect him to score almost two points per game, but I can’t say I was overly surprised by his success either,” Norrena added. I put him in Ovechkin’s office on the first wave of the power play and he has a great chance. Not everyone at that age can shoot unique shots like him.”
Aatos, a weak and frail player who was barely on the radar a few months ago, has, with the above-mentioned achievements, become a player to watch in Finland, both in the eyes of fans and journalists and among others recruiters.
“It’s not just journalists who want to talk to him now,” says Norrena. Recruiters are also starting to become interested in him. All the scouts want to talk to him because, after all, they have to do their homework in preparation for the draft.
“Imagine being virtually unknown and suddenly becoming the most popular U18 player in the country. That’s a lot for him to handle right now.”
Aatos, whom Norrena describes as an outsider, is not quite like his father Saku or his uncle Mikko.
“He’s not a typical Koivu,” describes the former goalkeeper with a laugh. I played with Mikko and Saku in the TPS and the national team, but also against them in the NHL. Saku was more of a playmaker. Mikko was an extremely effective two-way center. Aatos has good vision, but is more of a shooter than a passer.”
Nevertheless, we can observe some similarities.
“Aatos has his father’s mobility in tight spaces and the ability to challenge opposing players one-on-one,” emphasizes Norrena.
It is also impossible to ignore this goal that Aatos recently scored in a penalty shootout in the colors of Finland. The young man used the feint that his father used with great success with the Montreal Canadiens.
“Your father used this feint against me a few times,” Norrena points out. That’s not pleasant (laughs). Saku was one of the first players to use this feint in the 90s. I’m sure Aatos watched his dad’s highlights and his dad taught him a few tricks.
But make no mistake: Saku doesn’t act like he’s his son’s trainer, leaving Aatos to the existing staff.
“Saku is on the board of TPS. I would say he is more interested in the organization as a whole. Of course he is in the team and you see him at our games from time to time, but for Aatos he is more of a father. It’s better that way. He makes us work.
“I think there is a relationship of trust, a belief on his part that we know what we are doing.”
That’s reassuring. A father becoming too involved in his son’s career can have harmful consequences. We could think of the sad story of a former Canadiens forward who was once very promising and now plays in the KHL…
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