Koivu finds confidence

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- Mikko Koivu will admit there were times in his rookie season when doubts crept into his mind.

He netted only six goals and 21 points in 64 games as a freshman. He didn't know if he'd make it in the NHL.

"I said to myself it was a matter of time and tried to work harder," Koivu said.

"I talked to a lot of the older guys and that helped a lot."

A year later, the 24-year-old -- the younger brother of Montreal captain Saku Koivu -- is proving he belongs in the world's best hockey league.

Minny's sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft has 19 goals and 51 points this season.

Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire insists the second-year forward is starting to become what he envisioned the first time he watched him play.

"The very first thing I noticed was his hockey sense," Lemaire said. "He was solid defensively and offensively, he could bring some offence but that was not developed. He needed to play.

"I don't think he's gonna stay like this. I think he's gonna get better."

After missing the first month of his rookie season due to a knee injury, he put together a solid couple of months but then floundered.

He had only one goal in a 44-game stretch that ended with a tally in the season finale. But he put his game, and confidence, back together with a solid performance at the world championships, where he collected a pair of goals and two assists and helped Finland win bronze.

"Confidence is a big thing for me and I got that back in the worlds," Koivu explained.

"I got a lot of ice time and it was a good way to finish the year knowing I was able to play. This is my second year here and I definitely feel a lot more comfortable."

Time was the only cure, Lemaire said. Koivu improved his skating ability from being a "below average" skater to above average.

Plus, he has the size to win physical battles.

Throw in his smarts and Wild veteran Brian Rolston believes Koivu can elevate his game to another level.

"For him to be as young as he is and mature and the way he's playing, the kid's got a bright future ahead of him," Rolston said. "He has tremendous hockey sense."


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