Islanders: Can Oliver Wahlstrom Breakout In 2020-2021?

At age 20, is Oliver Wahlstrom finally ready to have a breakout season for the New York Islanders? We investigate the likelihood of that happening.

In 2018 the Islanders got lucky as they had two picks in the first round and had Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson fall in their lap. Dobson so far has had more NHL experience to date, and is expected to play a regular role this upcoming year on the blue line.

The question I have is if we can see the same thing from Wahlstrom who is currently thriving in Sweden. He’s on a loan right now and through five games he has two goals and four points to his name.

It’s good to see him performing well over there with some good competition after a bit of a slow start in the AHL last year. In 45 games he finished with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists). Unfortunately, not much of Bridgeport was successful offensively last year.

Wahlstrom also had a nine-game sample size in the NHL but failed to register a point. This year, there’s a chance for that to change as he has as good of a chance as any to make the team and to play right away.

As it stands now, the Islanders will likely head into next year with Lee – Barzal – Eberle on the top line, Beau – Nelson – Bailey as the second line, and Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck as the fourth line. On line three, JG Pageau is a lock but that leaves two spots open for competition.

Sure, the Isles could bring back Derrick Brassard, play Leo Komarov there, or even Michael Dal Colle. Unfortunately, the likelihood of any of those three moving the needle forward is rather slim for New York.

In the playoffs, Komarov played 17 of the 22 games for the Islanders but there’s a chance that he gets moved to free up space and even if he’s on the roster I’d argue that at this point his best role is as the 13th forward.

As for Dal Colle, he played 53 regular-season games but just three games in the playoffs. The team seemed to sour on him in the playoffs, which is completely understandable. Brassard isn’t even under contract right now, and he’s pretty far down the list of things I’m worried about at the moment.

Eventually, in a flat cap era especially, the Islanders have to get some values on ELC’s. That’s where Oliver Wahlstrom can come in. Over the next three years, Wahlstrom has a cap hit of $894,167.

Ideally, I’d like both Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom next to JG Pageau on line three but if I had to pick just one of those two, I’d lean towards Wahlstrom. Yes, he hasn’t shown it at the NHL or AHL level yet but his ceiling is the highest out of any Islanders forward prospect.

Here’s what Elite Prospects said about Wahlstrom when he entered the draft:

Offensively, he might be described as uncontainable: the confidence he has in his individual puck skill, paired with a high level of thinking, makes him a difficult cog to take out of alignment. He is able to create opportunities for himself, as well as teammates, out of nothing; this, in turn, translates to energy on the ice and in the building as a whole. All-in-all, Oliver Wahlstrom is an instinct-driven hockey player gifted with the size, skating, skill, and smarts that coaches yearn for.

Starting the younger guys off in a limited role on L3 is right up the Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz alley. Luckily, now with Pageau, it makes the transition a little bit easier.

JG is an all-around hockey player, he has enough offensive talent to get something out of the young, offensive threats while providing the defensive skillset to make up for any mistakes in their own end that they may have. Plus, who better to learn a two-way game from then Pageau.

As it stands right now, Wahlstrom is the front runner in my eyes to get a roster spot and to play. The Islanders desperately need help scoring, they need cheap roster players, and they need smart players. He checks all the boxes.

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So in short, yes I can see Wahlstrom making the team and becoming a regular this year. The Islanders really don’t have much else of a choice at this point.