Islanders: Can Oliver Wahlstrom be the missing piece for 20-21?

Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Oliver Wahlstrom #26 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Can Oliver Wahlstrom be that missing piece for the New York Islanders in the 2020-21 season?

The New York Islanders need a goal scorer. Even though Brock Nelson had 26 this year and captain Anders Lee put up 20, the Isles finished the season with 189 goals (ranked 24th in the league). Again, the Isles need a goal scorer.

It’s why fans are either hoping to trade for Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrik Laine or to pull Florida Panthers pending UFA Mike Hoffman when the UFA period opens on October 9. But what if they can get what they need from within and without having to spend big money on Laine or Hoffman?

What if

Oliver Wahlstrom

can be that guy for the Islanders?

Scoring Goals

Wahlstrom was drafted with the potential to be a lethal scorer at the NHL level. In his draft year, Wahlstrom put up 77 goals in 95 games across all competitions. It’s an incredible goal-scoring rate, and it’s why he was drafted eleventh overall in 2018.

Now out in Sweden on loan to AIK before the start of the 20-21 North American season, Wahlstrom is showing his goal-scoring credentials. In a recent pre-season game against fellow Allsvenskan side, Almtuna IS, Wahlstrom put up two power-play goals.

This one is the nicest of the two:

Seeing him score that goal immediately sent an excited shiver down my spine. This is exactly what the New York Islanders need. They need a player to step up and get in a dangerous scoring position and fire shots like this on the net. Specifically on the power play.

I’ve seen comments suggesting that this isn’t as complicated as it seems based on the amount of space Wahlstrom has. It’s true, he’s in acres of space, but if it was that easy to score a PPG in Sweden power play efficiencies wouldn’t be similar to those in the NHL.

Wahlstrom still has a lot to do on this play and he executes it flawlessly.

Can He Factor in 20-21?

Wahlstrom’s goal-scoring ability was never in doubt. After a nine-game stint in the NHL at the start of 19-20 the Isles 2018 first-rounder was sent back to the AHL to work on his overall game. Speaking to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple in December (subscription required), Wahlstrom indicated what he had to work on.

"“When I was younger, it was about going for goals, but I think it’s time to take some more responsibility in my overall learning of the game,” – Oliver Wahlstrom"

And according to Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson, Wahlstrom did just that this season.

"“I liked how his game became more well-rounded as the season went on. He had to move his feet more, stay in the flow of the game and I thought he competed harder from seeing him early on.”"

Through the later part of the AHL season, his production picked up along with that two-way game. In the final 12 games of the AHL season, Wahlstrom put up five goals and three helpers for eight points. He also ended the year on a four-game point streak.

So can he step into the team? With a flat cap, little cap space, and other players to sign, Wahlstrom could absolutely get a shot to try and make the roster next season.

Laine or Hoffman are sure things in the NHL. We’ve seen them hit 30+ goals in the NHL. Wahlstrom has done nothing in the NHL just yet. But both Laine and Hoffman will cost on the cap. Laine is already on for a $6.75 million AAV (for this year) and Hoffman’s expiring deal carried a $5.1875 million AAV.

Making either of them fit under the cap will be difficult. It won’t be difficult to find space for Wahlstrom’s $897,167 cap hit.

His loan out to Sweden is a key indicator that the Islanders think Wahlstrom can be a contributor sooner rather than later. Still in the preseason out in Sweden, we see what he can hopefully bring in 2020-21.