Oliver Wahlstrom | New York Islanders
Starting Rank: 8
Ending Rank: 2
Where they were (and what they did)
Look, it seems wild that Wahlstrom was as low as eighth going into this season, but honestly, he didn’t have a particularly impressive 2019-20 season.
The first-round pick in 2018 played his first full season as a pro for the Sound Tigers and registered 22 points in 45 games. To be fair, he was sent to the AHL to work on his game away from the puck and not necessarily his offensive skills. He had offensive skills in spades, he needed to learn the team game first.
But still, that production isn’t what you’d expect from an eleventh overall pick. Someone of his caliber should be dominating the AHL. The fact that he wasn’t was worrisome.
Why they jumped as high as they did
Before the North American hockey season began he was sent out on loan to the Swedish Allsvenskan. That’s the second tier of Swedish hockey. He did well with eight points in ten games, but the same critiques were made of his game from the season prior.
His defensive game needed work. His coach with AIK indicated that Wahlstrom had “trouble understanding the game we wanted to play”.
But Wahlstrom earned a spot on the team out of camp and has run with the opportunity putting up eleven goals and seven helpers for 0.44 points per game. That’s a 36 point player over 82 games. For a rookie in a Barry Trotz system that’s great.
His defensive game will never be perfect but his offensive skills more than compensate for that. Not to mention he has the right attitude often saying he’s “fallen in love with his game away from the puck.”