2. Why Was Oliver Wahlstrom Scratched So Long?
Oliver Wahlstrom only played 63:13 of 5v5 ice time in these 2020-21 playoffs. The exciting young winger who Islanders fans have grown so fond of was injured in the opening round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and never returned to the lineup. Sitting in the press box for the final 14 games of the team’s run to the conference finals.
Why? The team’s underlying results with Wahlstrom on the ice at 5v5 through the first five games of the playoffs were quite measurably positive.
Yet, that didn’t make a difference when it came to getting the 21-year-old Wahlstrom back into the lineup, it would appear. It’s possible that Wahlstrom was still injured all the way up to Friday night’s Game Seven defeat, and that even if he wanted to Barry Trotz could not have played him.
That said, Trotz’s reputation for being a veteran’s coach who prefers tenured players to those with less experience is not an unwarranted label. We’ve talked about it all season as a fanbase. Barry likes his vets.
He’d prefer Leo Komarov to bring a steady nothingness to the Islanders top line over the potential upside of a Kieffer Bellows, who was at times mistake-prone in his appearances in 2020-21. In that same vein, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest he preferred Travis Zajac’s presence over Wahlstrom’s in the most crucial games played all year.
The one hole I always seem to go back to in that theory is that Noah Dobson, a young player prone to some mistakes in his first full-time season as an NHL’er, played a full schedule with the exception of his missed time due to COVID earlier this season.
But whatever the reason for Wahlstrom’s absence, one thing is certain, the Islanders could’ve probably used a player with Ollie’s upside in games during this Tampa series. A player who possessed a shot capable of beating the odds and finding the net.
They missed that in this run, and it hurts doubly so after seeing the Montreal Canadiens reach the finals with young players like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki as key contributors in their lineup.