Game five of the 2021 regular season is soon. Here are three big questions facing the New York Islanders as they prepare to face the New Jersey Devils.
The New York Islanders head to the Prudential Center to take on the New Jersey Devils for game five of the 2021 regular season. With puck drop a few hours away, here are some of the big questions facing the Islanders.
Will Oliver Wahlstrom play?
The first-round pick from 2018 has yet to suit up for the New York Islanders in this young season. He made the full-roster out of camp, but Barry Trotz has opted to use Kieffer Bellows (2016 first-rounder) on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ross Johnston.
But with no production, little offense to speak of, and generally diminishing ice-time it seems that Trotz could make the switch on the third line for game five in New Jersey. At practice on Saturday, Trotz played Oliver Wahlstrom next to Pageau and Johnston while Bellows played with the extras (Komarov and Dal Colle).
In four games this season Bellows has no points, two shots on net, and a 42.20 xGF% at 5on5 (15th out of 18 Isles skaters). He hasn’t exactly done much. This could be why Trotz is looking to try something else out.
Wahlstrom could be the type of offensive player the Islanders have been looking for. He’s a right-handed player who possesses a “world-class shot” (Trotz’s words, not mine). It’s why the Islanders selected him eleventh overall in 2018. If they could get Wahlstrom in the right position, he could very well give them what they need; a dynamic goal scorer on the right side of the ice.
To be fair to Bellows in all this, it’s not as though he’s been put in the best position to succeed. Just like Wahlstrom, Bellows is a dynamic goal-scorer who has a great shot. But in his four games this season he’s played a primarily defensive role with over 50% of his zone starts in the defensive end.
On Thursday, Trotz handed Bellows 10:34 of ice-time, the most he’s had all season. Perhaps this is a sign that Trotz is willing to loosen Bellow’s leash a bit and give him a chance with Wahlstrom continuing to serve on the taxi squad.