NY Islanders Simon Holmstrom given opportunity with Barzal out
With news that Mathew Barzal is week-to-week with a lower-body injury suffered during Saturday's lopsided 6-2 loss against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden, rookie Simon Holmstrom will be given an opportunity to take his place on the top line alongside Anders Lee and Bo Horvat.
It's been a steady first NHL season for the 2019 first-round pick. The 21-year-old has been sound defensively and has avoided the common 'rookie mistakes' that prove costly for a team and lead to a young player being benched, scratched, or being sent back to Bridgeport. However, Holmstrom's offensive game has been slow to take shape at the NHL level, scoring just three goals and one assist in 31 games this season.
The few goals he has scored have shown flashes as to why Holmstrom and the Islanders feel there is a better offensive player there, and moving him up and playing with Horvat and Lee means he'll be expected to contribute offensively in a way he hadn't when playing on the third and fourth lines.
"We've talked recently about him and wanting more from him, said Lane Lambert on Monday morning. "This is an opportunity for him to give more. He's a very responsible guy, and he's good defensively."
There's a good chance that the Lee-Horvat-Holmstrom line will be matched up against Sidney Crosby later tonight, which is why having a defensively responsible forward is helpful, but the Islanders would also welcome Holmstrom to be the benefactor of playing with two goal-scorers. When Simon is on his game, I think he can make plays, and I think he can make plays with those guys," Lambert added.
Holmstrom scored 12 goals and 43 points in 68 games with Bridgeport last season. With Barzal now among the key forward pieces out of the lineup, now would be as good a time as ever for the rookie to show that he can generate offense at the NHL level - it's something he belives he can do.
“A little bit more of the offensive side, just to get that going, because I think that’s the strongest part of my game," said Holmstrom back in November. "I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m here, to do that. I think I have a lot more to give there. A lot more.”
Now the Islanders need to see it.