When the NY Islanders drafted Oliver Wahlstrom in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft, 11th overall and one pick right before teammate, Noah Dobson, they did so with the purpose that he would become a goal scorer. Wahlstrom began to show that prowess in his rookie season, however, took a bit of a step back in his sophomore year. Now, he's come into the 2022-23 season with a new mindset, and the 22-year-old winger is off to an excellent start with the Islanders.
We didn't get much of a glimpse of Wahlstrom in the preseason. The Portland, Maine native was dealing with a minor, yet lingering injury that kept him out of the majority of contests. Through the process of working to get back on the ice and into game action with the Islanders, we learned about how the winger prepared for the 2022-23 season over the summer as he reflected on his disappointing 2021-22:
"I learned a lot. I got into cooking… I’m a pretty simple cooker right now but working on the diet and just, you know, taking things easy. I think I was a little bit hard on myself last year and I have no expectations for myself this year."- Oliver Wahlstrom
Wahlstrom missed the first game of the regular season and Kieffer Bellows slid into his spot on the third line. A few days later, Wahlstrom was good to go against the Anaheim Ducks when they visited UBS Arena to play the Islanders. The Islanders routed the Ducks to a 7-1 victory and Wahlstrom was joined the points party, scoring quite the goal of his own against Anaheim netminder, John Gibson.
Sprung for a breakaway, Wahlstrom roofed the puck over the blocker of Gibson on the backhand and padded the Islanders' lead a quarter of the way through the second period. We saw glimpses of this from Wahlstrom in the past, however, playing in a system that is a little more open to offense has already taken a positive effect on his game. He finished the contest against the Ducks with two points.
Wahlstrom followed the two-point performance with another. The San Jose Sharks made their stop on Long Island this season on Wednesday night and the Islanders claimed their second victory in three games. Wahlstrom scored two goals in the 5-2 victory, including the game-winning goal to give the Islanders the lead late in the second period.
Feeling refreshed, both in body and mind, Wahlstrom is not short of confidence this season. When asked about scoring three goals in two games, he responded "I like to shoot from everywhere. Try to catch the goalie off guard or something."
What held Wahlstrom back when Barry Trotz was behind the bench were the details in his game. Now, with Lane Lambert at the helm, that doesn't appear to be an issue thus far. "He’s playing free. I like the little details that he’s doing and I think any time you’re a guy who’s a shooter or a scorer, if you do the details and the little things in the game, it leads to that.”
It's still very early, however, you can see a difference in Wahlstrom this season. Sustaining the early season success will be ultimately up to him, but it's not a coincidence that the Islanders have had success when he's finding the back of the net. After the Islanders didn't add any scoring punch this summer, a breakout season from the young forward would be a welcomed development.