Sansided

How long until Islanders play Oliver Wahlstrom on top line?

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Washington Capitals v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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At the beginning of the season, Barry Trotz told New York Islanders fans that Oliver Wahlstrom would be in consideration to play on the team's top line. But, at least through the first part of the year, Kyle Palmieri would get the first look up top.

There was no real complaint with that plan. Wahlstrom had a good rookie year but it would be a turn of ideology for Trotz to simply toss a rookie like Wahlstrom to the wolves with first-line duties right out of the gates.

But with Kyle Palmieri out with injury (and not coming back soon), why not play Wahlstrom up there? What's the hold-up?

New York Islanders: What are you waiting for with Wahlstrom?

On Monday, Trotz tried Kieffer Bellows up top with Barzal and Lee. Bellows has been playing well lately so why not reward him with a spot up top? Sadly, it didn't work. Even Trotz admitted to it after the game. He didn't fault either Barzal or Bellows for how the experiment failed, he simply said there wasn't "chemistry" between them.

We now know that having Bellows up top doesn't work. Why not try Wahlstrom now? Maybe Trotz forces the issue and keeps them all together to try and build that chemistry. And who's to say Oliver Wahlstrom will have chemistry with Barzal? But it's worth a shot no?

Wahlstrom generates more shots (+2.02), has a higher individual expected goals rate (+0.13), higher scoring-chances rate (+0.99), and a higher high-danger chances-for rate (+0.61). He creates way more rebounds (+0.76) and creates more attempts on the rush (+0.28).

[All stats are differentials between Wahlstrom and Bellows at 5on5 and on a per 60 basis and, of course, from NaturalStatTrick.]

In just about every statistical aspect of the game, Oliver Wahlstrom is a better fit for the top line over Bellows. He gets pucks on net a lot. That's just good no matter what line he plays on. He creates more rebounds than Bellows. That's great for someone like Anders Lee to feed off of. And he generates offense off the rush. That's Mathew Barzal's wheelhouse.

This isn't a knock against Bellows. He's been great this year. It didn't work with Barzal. That's fine. He still deserves to be up with the club in a middle-six role. But because that top-line experiment didn't work, the Isles should look to move onto Wahlstrom up there. It's time.

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