New York Islanders: Expectations For Oliver Wahlstrom
By Matt Hawkins
On Monday, October 14, the New York Islanders called up their top prospect, Oliver Wahlstrom. With his first NHL game done and over with, what are the expectations for the 19-year-old winger?
At 19 years and 124 days old, New York Islanders prospect Oliver Wahlstrom became the youngest Islander to make his NHL debut since Nino Niederreiter at 18 years and 31 days old back on October 9, 2010.
In his debut against the reigning Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues, Wahlstrom looked confident and refused to not be noticed.
Wahlstrom recorded just over 15 minutes of ice-time (including powerplay time), two shots, and a hit. If you watched the game, you noticed the 6-foot-1 winger right away as he was finishing his checks and was all over the ice.
If the former eleventh overall pick stays in the NHL for the rest of the season and plays all remaining 76 games, I can see him having a stellar rookie campaign.
With his great shot, we may see Wahlstrom at the “Ovechkin spot” on the New York Islanders powerplay sooner rather than later. If and when this happens, I expect Wahlstrom to start putting up similar numbers to that of Buffalo Sabres rookie Victor Olofsson.
With all of this said, let’s take a look back at Wahlstrom’s stats before the New York Islanders to get more of an exact idea of what he might do this season.
Stats by league, team, and year
U.S. National Under-17 Team of the USHL (2016-17)
In his first recorded year, Oliver Wahlstrom played for the U.S. National Under-17 Team of the USHL.
During his time with this team, he played in 21 games and only recorded eight points (five goals, three assists). His defense wasn’t that great either, recording a -8 plus/minus (+/-). This would also be his worst career points-per-game ratio of his recorded career at .38 points per game (pts/GP).
U.S. National Under-18 Team of the USHL (2016-17 & 2017-18)
Ultimately, Wahlstrom would move up to the under-18 team of the USHL in the same year.
In his first season playing on the U-18 team, Wahlstrom played in eight games and recorded five points (four goals, one assist). Although he had improved his pts/GP to .63, he still lacked defensively and was a -5.
However, the next year saw a dramatic improvement from the young winger. In his second season with the U-18 team, Wahlstrom played in 62 games (including exhibition games) and put up 94 points (48 goals, 46 assists) – that’s an incredible 1.52 pts/GP.
With his increased offensive numbers, his +/- would increase to a +37 as well.
So over the course of two seasons playing on the U-18 team of the USHL, Wahlstrom played in a total of 70 games and racked up 99 total points (52 goals, 47 assists), with a +32 +/- and an outstanding 1.41 pts/GP.
Boston College of the H-East Conference in the NCAA (2018-19)
For his next season, Wahlstrom elected to play for Boston College. Wahlstrom struggled here, as he posted his second-worst pts/GP in his recorded career at .53.
In 36 games played for BC, Wahlstrom totaled just 19 points (eight goals, eleven assists) and again wasn’t great defensively with a -6 +/-.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL (2018-19 & 2019)
After the NCAA hockey season ended, Wahlstrom would report to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers – the New York Islanders AHL affiliate.
In his first season with the Sound Tigers, Wahlstrom would play in ten games (including playoffs) and register seven points (four goals, three assists), good for a .7 pts/GP. Wahlstrom wasn’t terrible defensively, with a -3 +/-.
This year before being called up, Wahlstrom had played in four games for Bridgeport and recorded three points (one goal, two assists), which equates to a .75 pts/GP. Again, Wahlstrom wasn’t bad but also wasn’t good defensively, with a -2 +/-.
USA U-20 Team in the 2019 World Junior U-20 Championships
Along with playing in leagues, Wahlstrom has also suited up for the 2019 World Junior Tournament.
In this tournament, the winger played in seven games and put up just four points (two goals, two assists), enough for a .57 pts/GP. Although Wahlstrom didn’t produce much offensively, he actually played well defensively, with a +3 +/-.
Excluding his one game so far in the NHL, Oliver Wahlstrom has played in four different hockey leagues and one tournament.
Across these four leagues and one tournament, Wahlstrom has suited up for 148 games and racked up 140 points (72 goals, 68 assists) in these games.
Wahlstrom’s 140 points in 148 games is almost a point per game and equals roughly .95 pts/GP. Although he’s exceptional offensively, he seems to either only be average or slightly below average when it comes to defense, with a career +/- of +16.
What I Expect From Wahlstrom This Season
Although Wahlstrom didn’t record a point in his debut with the New York Islanders on Monday, he still impressed – finishing checks and making plays.
In his one game played so far, Wahlstrom showed the creativity and hockey sense to be successful at the NHL level. On one play, Wahlstrom ended up with the puck right in front of the next. Instead of trying to fire the puck right past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, he tried an offspeed shot to get Binnington to overreact.
If Wahlstrom remains with the Islanders for the rest of the season and suits up for the remaining 76 games, I believe that Wahlstrom has the skills, sense, and creativity to rack up at least 20 goals in his rookie season in the NHL.
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In fact, I’m going to say Wahlstrom puts up 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) and plays in the remaining 76 games, good for a .59 pts/GP. With being average on the defensive side of the game, however, Wahlstrom will only be a +4 for the season.