Before training camp started, the assumption was that you could probably pen in the same lineup for the NY Islanders with only one or two changes. One player who didn't receive much credit in terms of having a chance to make the 2022-23 roster is prospect Simon Holmstrom. However, a week into training camp and now that the preseason has started, the Tranås, Sweden native is making his mark, leaving an impression on the most important decision maker, Lane Lambert.
"I liked him. I thought he made some plays He looked comfortable and poised. I thought he looked pretty good tonight. I thought he was one of our better players."- Lane Lambert
Holmstrom had a breakout season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Islanders last season, his third professional season in North America. It seemed like for a while that Aatu Räty and William Dufour were taking over as the Islanders' top prospect, and although that may still be true, Holmstrom is at least the most prepared to play in the NHL right now, and he's being given the opportunity playing next to Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise.
"I’m here to take a spot. So is everybody else here.That’s the biggest thing. Take a spot and fight for it."- Simon Holmstrom
If Holmstrom is going to take someones spot, the likely candidates he'd be stealing time from appears to be Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom. Skating on a line with him towards the end of camp and in the first game of preseason, Parise has noticed the difference in Holmstrom from last season's camp to this seasons.
"It’s a lot of improvement. This year, he seems a bit stronger on the puck. He’s always had the on-ice, head-up, making-good-plays awareness out there, so that’s never been part of his game that’s been lacking. He just looks like he’s more comfortable with the puck, making good plays, holds onto it really well."- Zach Parise
Holmstrom attributes his growth physically to his growth mentally. The former 2019 first round draft pick is a more confident player this year, especially now skating with the Isles No.1 center. The chemistry didn't start seamlessly, but things are getting better according to Holmstrom.
"It got better for sure. We’ve only practiced two or three times together so, hopefully, it’s getting better and we get more chances together."- Simon Holmstrom
It's been a pleast surprise to see how well Holmstrom is playing and the words of praise he's been receiving. Traditionally thought of as a meek prospect pool, Holsmtrom's emergence is a welcomed development giving the Islanders another solid, young option at forward. With just under two weeks left in the preseason, if we see Holmstrom continue to play the way he is and with the same linemates, you just might see him in the opening night lineup on October 13th vs. the Florida Panthers.