In yesterday’s loss to the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders featured two former first-round picks playing together on the same line. Kieffer Bellows (19th overall in 2016) and Oliver Wahlstrom (11th overall in 2018) flanked Jean-Gabriel Pageau on the Isles third line.
Both will hopefully become assets for this club who’s in dire need of cheap and effective players that can add some offense. Both are still on ELC’s (Bellows’s contract expires this year) so the test for both is to see if they can be effective and provide offense.
Now that they are both here, how’s it going?
New York Islanders Oliver Wahlstrom had a strong game
The biggest takeaway from Oliver Wahlstrom’s game was that he ended up with 43 seconds of penalty kill time. I thought it was a mistake at first. But NHL.com still hasn’t corrected it so it mustn’t be. Remember this is a player whose main ‘deficiency’ is his defensive game. Those 43 seconds of PK time are just 29 seconds less than Michael Dal Colle has had in his 83 game NHL career.
Sure that PK time came when the net was empty after Pulock’s penalty and Barzal’s game misconduct, but if Wahlstrom isn’t seen as a good enough defensive player or that the coach has an issue with his play within the system, he’s not jumping over the boards in that situation.
This is an encouraging sign for Wahlstrom’s development.
According to Hockey Stat Card, Wahlstrom finished with the second-highest game score for the Islanders last night with a 1.59. Pageau finished first (for the Isles) with a 1.70 game score.
Yes, his game score is certainly helped by scoring a goal – Wahlstrom scored his first goal in the NHL off a lucky bounce as he tried to connect with Pageau who was driving to the net – but he also finished with a 68.5 xGF% in 9:22 of 5on5 time.
Kieffer Bellows was fifth for the Isles when it comes to game score. Thanks to 63.74 xGF% and a 0.30ixGF (third behind only Lee and Eberle). Unlike his linemates, Bellows didn’t get a point on the night, but he did manage three shots on net (his linemates combined for one).
Third Line is Working
It’s one game. But while the rest of the team was imploding the Islanders third line of Bellows-Pageau-Wahlstrom worked well. Barry Trotz seems to agree based on his comments in the post-game press conference.
Now, hopefully, that means this third line won’t be broken up any time soon and that maybe, just maybe, Bellows and Wahlstrom will sustain that 12 and 11 minutes of ice time they picked up against the Capitals.
For now, though, the kids seem alright.