Two-thirds of the New York Islanders‘ top line is written in ink. Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal will play top-line minutes for the Islanders. That much is a given, but who plays on the right side is very much still up for grabs.
For a majority of the offseason, Islanders fans have debated whether or not it would be Kyle Palmieri who just re-signed to a new deal or if it would be youngster, Oliver Wahlstrom.
Well today, Barry Trotz confirmed what we were all thinking. It’ll be between those two.
Last year at the trade deadline, the Islanders landed both Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri. The assumption was that Palms would play up top with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, but that was rarely the case.
In the regular season, Palmieri played 21:55 with Mat Barzal at 5v5 according to Natural Stat Trick. For reference, he received 183:03 minutes away from Barzy in the regular season. That’s roughly 14 percent of the time on ice at 5v5 with Mat Barzal.
In the playoffs, the two played together a little bit more and had some good production. They had a 50.0 CF%, a 51.33 xGF%, and a 50.0 HDCF% through 18 games of 33:04 together. To no surprise, the veteran gets the first shot.
Oliver Wahlstrom will have to wait his turn, which is fine. Wahlstrom had 12 goals in 44 games last year (a 22 goal pace over an 82 game season) playing just 12:23 of ice time. While Wahlstrom will likely remain on line three his linemates will have higher upside this year.
JG Pageau returns as the third line center while Zach Parise adds veteran scoring depth on the left-hand side. With all due respect to Leo Komarov, Ross Johnston, Travis Zajac or Michael Dal Colle Parise is a significantly higher-ceiling player, even at his age.
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Nobody should be surprised that Palmieri is getting the first crack over Wahlstrom who has just 53 NHL games under his belt. Until proven otherwise, this staff prefers veterans. Wahlstrom will get his shot, but for now a power play specialist and third-line player is just fine for him.