As the 2021-22 season kicked off, there were high expectations for second-year forward Oliver Wahlstrom to become a focal point of the New York Islanders' offense. Drafted out of the USA National Team Development Program, Wahlstrom was known for his ability to find the back of the net. After starting as the Isles' hottest goal-scorer, Wahlstrom fluttered through the remainder of the season.
As most of the roster struggled to find their footing on a 13-game road trip to start the season, Wahlstrom was one of the exceptions. He found the goal column three times in his first three games and five times in the team's first eight. Expectations were sky-high as it seemed the team may have found their goal-scoring winger.
From there on out, Wahlstrom only scored eight more times during the remainder of the season. Three separate times he went 10-plus games without a single goal, including the team's final 12 games, where he failed to record a single point.
Though Wahlstrom had difficulties in his second season on Long Island, a lack of playing time contributed to his poor output. The former 11th overall pick logged only 12:04 of ice time per game. During the second half of the season, he saw that number dip even lower, frequently seeing less than 10 minutes of ice-time.
Not only did Wahlstom's time on ice slip at 5-on-5, but it also dropped significantly on the powerplay. According to DobberSports.com, through the first quarter of the season (17 games played), Wahlstrom averaged 2:10 of powerplay time. In the final quarter of the season (20 games played), that number plummeted to only 16 seconds. For a player known for his shot, this significantly hampers his ability to produce.
Wahlstrom spent a lot of the season playing on a line alongside JG Pageau and Zach Parise. Aside from being a goal scorer, Wahlstrom has also proven that he is not one to stray away from physicality. In an interview with SportsNet at the 2018 NHL Scouting Combine, Wahlstrom explains how his favorite player growing up was Alexander Ovechkin. Like Ovechkin, Wahlstrom has shown that he can deliver booming hits while still being a threat to score with the puck on his stick.
"My childhood hero is Alex Ovechkin. I grew up watching him all the time."- Oliver Wahlstrom
Wahlstrom was able to adapt his game and fit in alongside Pageau and Parise, but that is not where he is most valuable. The Islanders are not looking for another third-line winger. They're looking for a goal scorer. In theory, Wahlstrom would be the perfect complement for a center like Mathew Barzal.
On March 13th, against the Anaheim Ducks, former Head Coach, Barry Trotz, gave the fans the line they had been clamoring for and put Wahlstrom with Barzal, alongside Parise. Unfortunately, Wahlstrom only saw the ice for a total of 7:35, and the line failed to produce much.
As the Islanders look to acquire a scoring winger, Wahlstom's name has been brought up frequently as a piece that could be shipped out. Even with the inconsistencies of Wahlstrom's second season, he remains a valuable puzzle piece to the future of this franchise.
If Wahlstrom can find his game and become more comfortable doing the things he does best, there is no reason for him not to become the player the fan base and organization alike believe he is capable of becoming. Wahlstrom has the skill set to be a consistent 30-goal scorer in the NHL and needs to prove that beginning October 13th.