The NY Islanders have had a gluttony of forwards playing on the third line over the last couple of seasons. Last season, this line was a staple between J.G. Pageau, Zach Parise, and Hudson Fasching. This season, we have seen Lane Lambert try and pair Fasching, Julien Gauthier, Simon Holmstrom, Anders Lee, and Oliver Wahlstrom, all with Pageau, and nothing has seemed to stick. Holmstrom has improved his game immensely on the penalty kill and 5-on-5 action playing alongside Pageau. However, nobody else has been able to replicate the type of production Parise brought to the third line.
Out of all the forwards Lambert has tried, the one that has become an afterthought is Wahlstrom. Just last season, he was playing on the first line alongside Mathew Barzal, where he had seven goals and nine assists. Unfortunately, Wahlstrom could not continue his season due to a torn ACL and only appeared in 35 games. Fast forward to the 2023-24 season, Wahlstrom cannot find consistent playing time, having appeared in just 17 of the Islanders' 26 games. That leaves the question, what is the plan moving forward for the young right winger?
Wahlstrom must seize his next opportunity to remain on the Islanders.
With the struggles the Islanders have finding stability on the third line, it would make sense for Wahlstrom to receive the next opportunity. He is a former first-round draft pick with the talent to put the puck on the net often, something the Islanders often struggle to do. Wahlstrom's forecheck has improved since his return to the lineup this season, which makes him an intriguing line partner with Pageau.
Wahlstrom was pulled from the lineup because of his struggles on defense. He was on the ice for all four of the Calgary Flames' goals on November 18 before he played hero for the Islanders in the fourth round of a shootout.
However, at just 23 years old, the Islanders would be making a mistake to let him ride the bench for an extended period. The best way for a player of this age to improve is to seize an opportunity. The best example is Holmstrom, who has grown as a young player with consistent ice time. In the words of Butch Goring, the third line has been "invisible" for the past 2 games. Furthermore, the Islanders are an aging team with plenty of albatross contracts, which does not bode well for long-term success. Lambert should give Wahlstrom a try and see what the team may have for the future.