It was the first time we've seen Oliver Wahlstrom in a NY Islanders sweater since Oct. 27th - his last game before suffering a season-ending injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Almost ten months later, Wahlstrom is healthy and feeling stronger than ever. After enduring strenuous physical rehabilitation from a torn ACL, Wahlstrom is ready to put that all behind him, feeling he has nothing to lose entering his fifth season in the NHL.
"My mind this year is kind of like an 'F it' mindset, you know, just go out there and have fun," said Wahlstrom following the Isles first day of training camp. "I already did nine months of preparing, so that's just the mindset now."
Coming off his entry-level contract, Wahlstrom became an RFA at the season's end, electing to sign his qualifying offer just before the deadline, as he'll earn $874,125 on a one-year "prove it" deal instead of signing a longer-term extension, understanding he only played half of last season.
"For me, it's not about that right now," said Wahlstrom. "It's about finding my game, finding my joy in the game. You know, I can be a huge contributor to this organization, and I know those deals and things are going to come soon. For me, you can't really focus on those things. You just got to do what you got to do to become a better player."
Players who have suffered significant injuries in the past, like Wahlstrom, can sometimes be timid and nervous about stepping onto the ice again. From how Wahlstorm has been speaking after just one day back skating with the team, he seems to have a positive mindset and is ready to get going once again.
"I found a little bit more clarity in this injury, a little bit more clear head space with this injury," Wahlstrom said. "Like I said, I got nothing to lose here and the rest of my career. For me, that opens up things in my game, how to learn from other guys, and like I said, I think this injury was unbelievable for me."
As the Isles have been without a goal-scoring winger for years, Wahlstrom has the opportunity to step into that role, but with only a one-year deal, this may be his final opportunity.