Islanders: Oliver Wahlstrom In The Top-Six Debate
By Matt O'Leary
When the New York Islanders selected Oliver Wahlstrom 11th overall in 2018, they knew what they were getting. A highly skilled forward who isn’t afraid to shoot the puck and we’re finally beginning to see that at the NHL level three years later.
In Wahlstrom’s past three games he has three points and has continued to shine with each opportunity that Barry Trotz gives to him. For the most part, Wahlstrom has played on line three with JG Pageau.
Pageau has been on fire to start the year and it looks like Wahlstrom is beginning to find his groove as well despite the left side being a rotation between Michael Dal Colle, Leo Komarov, Austin Czarnik, and Anthony Beauvillier.
With Wahlstrom’s play, the question that is hard to avoid is should the Islanders bump him up to the top-six?
Honestly, it’s a harder question than one may think. The seemingly obvious answer of yes, doesn’t come without its flaws. Allow me to explain.
The top line of Lee – Barzal – Eberle has been very good for the Isles all year, especially Lee and Barzal so you likely aren’t messing with them and after a slow start, the Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey line has finally clicked.
Good teams tend to spread out their scoring so is it really a bad thing to have a kid like Oliver Wahlstrom working with Pageau on the third line?
On the flip side, you can make the argument that Wahlstrom’s stats would be even better playing with more offensive forwards and more ice time. Think about it, Wahlstrom is averaging under 11 minutes per game and still has 29 shots in 13 games.
I genuinely see both sides of the fence on this debate, but even with all the valid points on keeping the lines the same I still think I want to move Wahlstorm into the top-six. I’d go something like this:
Lee – Barzal – Eberle
Beauvillier – Nelson – Wahlstrom
Dal Colle – Pageau – Bailey
Martin – Cizikas – Komarov/Clutterbuck
The top line and fourth line essentially stays the same (when Clutterbuck gets healthy he goes in for Leo Komarov). Wahlstrom playing with Nelson who is more offensive, and Beau who is a good setup man would be a sight to see and should lead to more offense for him.
As for moving Josh Bailey down, he’s left a lot to be desired this year. He’s starting to look better but it’s hard to make a case for him deserving the top-six ice time at the moment. Pageau could benefit from a playmaker like Josh Bailey as well.
Oliver Wahlstrom’s advanced numbers for the Islanders
Looking at Natural Stat Trick, Wahlstrom’s advanced numbers are looking pretty solid for the Islanders. He has a 50.4 CF%, a 51.1 xG%, and a 52.8 HDCF%. When he’s on the ice, he’s dangerous for this team.
I would be surprised to see Barry Trotz pull the trigger on a lineup shuffle like this, just based on his preference for veteran experience, but if Wahlstrom keeps forcing his hand by playing like he has it’s going to be a difficult decision for Trotz and company.
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This is something I’ve talked about for a while now, but the Isles can finally capitalize on a cheap ELC if they so choose. His cap hit is $894,167 for this year and two more which is phenomenal value for a team that’s struggling with the cap.