Islanders big decision: Oliver Wahlstrom or Kyle Palmieri on top line?
By Alexis Panagatos
For the second year in a row, the New York Islanders were a few games short of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Long Island. The common concern for both exits is: do the Isles have the offense to go all the way? If yes, are they maximizing their roster’s talents correctly?
With cap space troubles, the Islanders had to maneuver through multiple signings in order for the core to remain the same. Unfortunately, the 2021 Expansion Draft caused some stress to the team’s offense after the Seattle Kraken selected Jordan Eberle.
New York Islanders gap on the top line
This move leaves a huge question mark on the first line. So far in the month of September Lou Lamoriello was able to keep Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri, and Ilya Sorokin while adding Zach Parise. These moves settled most concerns for the team going into the 2021-22 NHL season.
But did it address the issue on the top line?
After Anders Lee got injured at the beginning of the season, the Isles first line was moved around a bit. The line we saw the most consisted of Jordan Eberle, Mat Barzal, and Leo Komarov. As a team who lost 1-0 in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Finals, the first line struggling to produce is an issue the Isles have to solve.
Upcoming Isles star Oliver Wahlstrom was injured mid-playoff run and appeared to be healthy towards the end of the Islanders Lightning series. Fans were puzzled with why he remained to sit and believed he could have produced. Another complaint that surfaced was why pick up Palmieri if you are not going to play him on the first line?
With Anders Lee fully recovered and ready to lace up, that leaves one spot on the right-wing. Both Wahlstrom and Palmieri would be a good fit but who would work out the best?
Wahlstrom has been with the Isles for some time and he was always seen as a player who could really stand out. Last season, once he got ice time he really proved himself. He played 44 games and recorded 21 points and in the playoffs, he appeared in five games and recorded three points.
He played alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri which was a great third-line group. These three players served such great chemistry but individually Pageau and Palmieri impacted Wahlstrom’s game in a positive way.
Wahlstrom would have been a great addition on the first line in the playoffs next to Barzal and Eberle. Losing game 7, this is the “what if” question that remains in fans’ heads: What if Barry Trotz put in Wahlstrom? Would we have made it?
Many fans believe he could have impacted the team that much in the playoffs. With Barzal proving that he is an extraordinary playmaker and Wahlstrom having a sniper, this could be exactly what the Isles need. The only question is, is it too early to move Wahlstrom to line one?
Palmieri is a veteran in the NHL that the Islanders picked up at the deadline this past season. This packaged deal included both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Isles from the New Jersey Devils. With the help of Lamoriello’s history in New Jersey, this move was definitely the more logical one for the Isles.
He recorded four points in 17 regular-season games with the Isles and played 19 playoff games and recorded nine points. Most fans were under the impression that he would fill the empty spot on line one. Barry Trotz had other plans.
Palmieri was playing on line three and occasionally he would pop up to line one during games. Jumping onto the roster late in the season could have impacted his production.
Zach Parise would be a better fit for the third line and another great veteran mentor for Wahlstrom to fully develop. The hustle and skill Palmieri has would benefit both Lee and Barzal on the first line.
With two solid players, Barry Trotz has a tough decision to make. What would be best for the Isles?