It won’t surprise you to hear that the New York Islanders are taking a cautious approach to the development of sophomore player Oliver Wahlstrom. Coach Trotz indicated that the Isles would start Kyle Palmieri on the top line over Wahlstrom.
And look, I know some fans were hoping to see the sniper get a chance to play with Barzal this year. But this is a good thing for Wahlstrom. And it’s not like Trotz won’t play Wahlstrom with Barzal. He’ll get a few shifts up top.
But to start the year, Wahlstrom will continue to see the ice alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Consistency key for New York Islanders Oliver Wahlstrom
Arthur Staple reported (subscription required) the comments from the head coach in his piece on the Islanders off day on Monday:
"“The limited time I did play him [Palmieri] there (in the playoffs), he was good with Barzy, and Wally was good with Pager (J-G Pageau),” Trotz said. “So Palms will get first crack there.”"
I’ve talked about this before. Keeping Wahlstrom on the third line is a good spot for him. Simply because he’ll have the chance to learn not only from Pageau but from Zach Parise as well. Having both players out there teaching the 2018 eleventh overall pick is going to be a huge boost to his development.
But there’s also the notion that keeping things consistent for the sophomore player can only benefit him. Typically, when a rookie player comes in and has a good year they’re expected to do much more in year two. Which quite frequently leads to that dreaded sophomore slump.
Obviously, the secret is out on Oliver Wahlstrom. Everyone around the league knows how well he can shoot the puck. (Although, I’m not sure that was much of a secret to begin with.) Which means Wahlstrom is already going to have a tougher time out there. Adding the complexity of a new full-time role won’t guarantee a slump, but it certainly wouldn’t help him avoid it either.
Keeping Wahlstrom next to Pageau allows the young forward to continue building on what he did in 2020-21 while his ice-time trends upwards. This might seem like an overly cautious approach, but it’s actually smart asset management by the Islanders who are under no pressure to start Wahlstrom higher up the lineup.
It’s exactly what you’d expect from an organization that seems to consistently get things right. But again, if you wanted to see Wahlstrom get some looks up top this year, don’t worry you’ll still get a few of those.