We were all told at the start of the season that Oliver Wahlstrom could eventually lineup up with star center Mathew Barzal. It's a pair New York Islanders fans have wanted to see together for some time now.
Barzal is a top-tier setup man. His elite skating and puck handling skills open up an incredible amount of ice for his teammates. Now add his ability to thread a pass better than most, especially on the Islanders squad, next to a guy like Wahlstrom who has a certifiable elite release and a "shoot-from-anywhere" mentality, and the pairing seems obvious.
But Barry Trotz has been hesitant to put them together. Until now.
New York Islanders line up Barzal with Wahlstrom
In the pre-game skate before taking on the Anaheim Ducks later at UBS, Barzal was skating on the third line with Zach Parise to his left and Oliver Wahlstrom to his right:
Of course, the two have shared the ice during the year, with 94:58 of 5on5 time, but they've never been listed on the same line for a game. So why now?
Well, frankly, it's the right time to put them together. I know we've all wanted to see this earlier than March 13, but, again, the time is right to get them together.
This is only Barzal's second game since returning from an injury that had him miss the last six outings. Sure he played 17:44 against Winnipeg in his return, but the Isles are still, for the lack of a better term, rehabbing him. That's why they've got Barzal on a third-line role today.
There's no rush to get Barzal to do all the heavy lifting offensively right now anyways. The Isles current top-six is rolling:
-Brock Nelson is on a four-game goal streak
-Anthony Beauvillier has a three-game point streak going with six points in those three contest
-Anders Lee has seven points in his last three games (with six goals)
-Josh Bailey has four points in his last two games
-Kyle Palmieri has a three-game point streak going (all assists)
-Jean-Gabriel Pageau also with a three-game point streak
So why change that top six while Barzal is still fresh off injury? Again, there's no rush.
Wahlstrom was recently made a healthy scratch for the Isles. The sophomore NHLer hasn't been at his best for a while now. There's just something off about his game at the moment. Barry Trotz is still trying to figure out how to get the best out of Wahlstrom on a consistent basis.
This is yet another feather in Trotz's cap. After a healthy scratch, Trotz is dangling playing Wahlstrom with Barzal to coax out the player he feels is there but hasn't seen (consistently).
We don't know if it's going to work, but fans have been asking for this pairing since last season. Now that the timing is right, we get to see it in action.