The New York Islanders don’t have a ton of depth in the system at center, but they might be trying to change that with some positional changes.
Last year, the New York Islanders decided to make Otto Koivula a center. The Finland native was drafted as a winger, but when he joined the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last year he eventually got moved to center.
It actually worked wonders for Koivula, he was extremely productive in his first year in the AHL. In 69 games played he had 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists). This year, he hopes to contend for the third line center spot, although knowing Lou Lamoriello he will probably begin the year in the AHL.
That being said, due to his change of position he flew up the prospect rankings. The Isles don’t have much organizational depth at the position so they were forced to change Koivula’s position and it worked.
I’m starting to think that the Islanders are going to do the same thing with Oliver Wahlstrom. At the Blue and White Scrimmage last week, we noticed that Wahlstrom was playing center on a line with 2019 first-rounder Simon Holmstrom on the right side.
Even though the Islanders are obviously very high on Holmstrom, some would say they even reached for him in the first round, there’s no denying that Wahlstrom is the more talented prospect. So why would he play out of position?
Well, he’s really not playing out of position. After doing some digging, I found that heading into the NHL Draft last year Wahlstrom said he could play center. Matt Porter of the Boston Globe had the report.
Right out of Wahlstrom’s mouth he says that he’s been playing center his entire life, and only recently he has switched to wing. The Islanders had to have known that when they selected him and it makes sense now. With the lack of centers in the Islanders system, why not give Wahlstrom a shot at the position he played for most of his life.
Things like the blue and white scrimmage are a good time to see if he can handle playing the position. While he didn’t play center in his small AHL stint last year, perhaps the Islanders experiment with that this year.
I know many see him as a prototypical sniper but he’s talented enough to play center if the Islanders need him to. That could potentially end their search for a depth center and Lou did say after all that he had some in-house ideas to replace Val Filppula.