Believe it or not, 2023-24 will be Oliver Wahlstrom's fifth season with the New York Islanders.
Thus far, his career has been a series of spurts and stops. There have been flashes where he has been able to show off his plus shot that teases you with 25-30 goal potential, but overall, he has failed to develop his two-way game to the point where he can be used in more situations.
Former head coach Barry Trotz was often questioned on his perceived puzzling handling of Wahlstrom but regularly emphasized that there were intangibles that young players needed to learn to build their overall game to gain confidence that can sustain a scorer through a dry spell.
While the Islanders bolstered their forward group after Wahlstrom's knee injury last December with the acquisitions of Bo Horvat and Pierre Engvall, the void created by Zach Parise not being with the team to start the season and the trading of Josh Bailey creates a clear opportunity for Wahlstrom to take necessary strides in what is shaping up to be a prove-it year for the 23-year-old.
“I knew the game [Wahlstrom] went down that we were gonna miss him, and we did,” head coach Lane Lambert said at Monday's charity golf outing. “He’s coming off, I guess you would say, a significant injury. He’s had a great summer. The time frame for him has been good. I’m looking forward to it.”
Lambert was also asked about Wahlstrom and the potential for him unleashing his shot from the left circle to help the 30th ranked power play. "Teams take those guys away too so with that does is open up other areas ... sometimes that particularly weapon isn't able to be used based on the fact that it's taken away. It's more of a game to game situation."
Wahlstrom had seven goals and nine assists in 35 games before his knee injury. That's an 82-game pace of 16 goals and 21 assists, which is decent production, but the Islanders are hoping for more from the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.