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New York Islanders Should Play Oliver Wahlstrom Next to Mathew Barzal

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders skates in his first NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on October 14, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders skates in his first NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on October 14, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jordan Eberle isn’t making the trip to Winnipeg, the New York Islanders should get Oliver Wahlstrom in his first line spot alongside Mathew Barzal.

As the New York Islanders look to make it three wins from three games, they’ll yet again be without the services of Jordan Eberle. Which means that their only recognized right-winger is Cal Clutterbuck.

(Yes, Josh Bailey plays RW, but he’s a converted RW not a natural one.)

Thankfully, Oliver Wahlstrom was called up to the NHL roster. The Islanders eleventh overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft gives the Islanders some extra offensive punch they didn’t have before,

They need to place him alongside Mathew Barzal.

Put Him Next to Barzal

At the end of the 2018-19 season, coach Barry Trotz was asked what the Islanders needed. His answer was that they needed more pop up-front. An answer just about anyone that followed then New York Islanders could have predicted.

With the 22nd ranked offense based on goals-for, the Islanders clearly weren’t an offensive force last season.

Just don’t tell that to Trotz and Lou Lamoriello. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, both have gone on the record and stated that the Islanders offense is fine. Barry says to look at the Isles 5on5 numbers (they ranked 16th in goals for 5on5 in 2018-19) and Lou says that he’s more worried about goal differential than anything (the Isles are 19th with a -2 goal differential right now).

By keeping the band together in 2019-20, the Islanders don’t have that extra pop upfront that Barry Trotz was looking for at the end of last season.

He’s only played a single game, but Oliver Wahlstrom has shown that he can provide that pop. His relative numbers are near the top of the team in almost every important offensive category ( HDCF%, SCF%, xGF%) after that singular appearance for the Isles.

(Stats from NaturalStatTrick)

Sure, yes. It’s only been one game. But who else is Barry Trotz going to put up there? Michael Dal Colle? Tom Kuhnhackl? Cal Clutterbuck? By now we all know that neither of those players belongs in the Islanders top-six let alone on the top line with Barzal.

Wahlstrom’s game is all about finding space and exploiting it with his incredible shot. Mathew Barzal’s game is all about creating space for players like Oliver Wahlstrom to find the back of the net. It’s a mutually beneficial skill set that the New York Islanders need to exploit.

Again, with Jordan Eberle out, for the time being, the Islanders find themselves without many right-handed forwards.

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The New York Islanders are going to take on a defensively weak Winnipeg Jets team on Thursday, it’s the perfect time to ice Mathew Barzal alongside Oliver Wahlstrom for an extended tryout.

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