Otto Koivula
Photo: Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire Via Getty Images

Despite low expectations, prospect Otto Koivula has impressed this year and is in the conversation for a call-up with the New York Islanders.

Justin Weiss

New York Islanders forward prospect Otto Koivula has been playing himself into the conversation for a late-season call-up with his impressive play.

Koivula, 20, was a fourth-round pick by the Islanders in 2016. He has scored 17 goals and added 22 assists in 51 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL this season. He has also played for Ilves of the Finnish Elite League (Liiga) and the Finnish U20 club in the past.

“I think he sees the ice very well, his hockey sense is good and he’s adapting rather quickly to the North American style,” Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson told Justin Cait and Alan Fuehring of in early December.

Standing at 6-foot-4, Koivula has tremendous size for a winger. In his third season of professional hockey, he has shown an ability to dominate the competition and go into the dirty areas. Last season, he had a 7.0 percent shooting percentage — this season, he is shooting 22 percent.

Skating has always been a concern with Koivula. He has the size and strength to become a power forward at the next level, but may lack the foot speed to make a real impact. Over the years, many big-bodied guys have tried — and failed — to stick in the NHL.

Koivula hopes that he has what it takes.

The Athletic’s Arthur Staple is one such believer. He suggested in a Q&A session Wednesday that Koivula may — and probably should — be the only untouchable currently in Bridgeport. With the trade deadline coming up, Staple advises that the Islanders hold onto Koivula.

“They [Islanders] have to love what Koivula’s doing — he’s gone from a project to a bona-fide prospect who could help them in the nearer term,” Staple wrote.

The Islanders are averaging 2.85 goals-per-game, which ranks No. 21 in the league. The team needs a goal scorer, and Koivula could be an appealing internal option. In recent seasons, the Islanders have received contributions from a number of late-round picks, including Anders Lee (sixth round, 2009), Casey Cizikas (fourth round, 2009), Devon Toews (fourth round, 2014) and Sebastian Aho (fifth round, 2017).

Koivula hopes to be next.

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.