The New York Islanders selected Oliver Wahlstrom 11th overall at the 2018 NHL Draft with the anticipation that he would become a regular goalscorer at the NHL level. His sophomore season was disappointing after a solid 2020-21 rookie campaign. Wahlstrom came into 2021-22, expecting to continue trending upward as a player and a goal scorer. At first glance, that didn't quite happen this season, but the underlying numbers suggest that Wahlstrom was quite effective and should take that step forward next season.
Former head coach, Barry Trotz, was often hesitant to use Wahlstrom in certain situations and as a result, he would often find himself with the least TOI by the end of a game or sometimes a healthy scratch. One of Trotz's gripes with Wahlstrom's game was his poor puck management. His minutes were handled with "tough love" and despite the fan theory, the 21-year-old forward expressed understanding of Trotz's methods:
"I need tough love sometimes. It’s part of the game; it’s part of the business. It was just ups and downs for me, obviously, this year. I love the game, and I take information in and try to use that."- Oliver Wahlstrom
Trotz is no longer behind the bench and now Lane Lambert is the new head coach. If Wahlstrom isn't a casualty of Lamoriello's claim of "hockey trades" this summer, Lambert's best approach with Wahlstrom should be to allow him to work through any growing pains because the juice could be worth the squeeze.
Wahlstrom tallied 13 goals and 11 assists this season for 24 points in 73 games. That's quite a decent drop-off from his 12 goals, nine assists for 21 points in 44 games in 2021-22. However, taking a deeper look at Wahlstrom at 5on5 via NatstatTrick, he had the third-highest xGF% at 50.44% suggesting he was one of the best Islander forwards in terms of being a direct result in more chances in goals-for than goals-against. Further, when Wahlstrom was on the ice, he totaled a 55.88 HDGF%, second among forwards with 200 or more minutes this season. This proves that Wahlstrom is creating high-danger chances for the Islanders at a higher rate than allowing high-danger chances against.
When you factor in all strengths, the numbers look even better. Wahlstrom's xGF% at all strengths jumps up to 54.53% leading all Islanders skaters. The same goes for his HDGF% which jumps to an excellent 60%. The standard CF% at all strengths even nears elite numbers sitting at 53.66%.
The analytics look good despite ranking 11th out of 14 forwards in TOI/G among skaters that skated in 300 or more minutes. It would serve Lambert and the Islanders best to increase his role and allow him to work out the kinks. Clearly, when he's on the ice he's not a liability but rather causing havoc in the opponent's zone. There's no reason Wahlstrom can't pot 20 goals as soon as next season if he's given the chance. He knows he can be better and so do we:
"I think for me everything could be better. This summer, I’m gonna work on shooting, goal-scoring, skating, edges, my nutrition. Everything."- Oliver Wahlstrom