It's hard to pinpoint how to feel about Simon Holmstrom after he debuted for the New York Islanders during the 2022-23 season.
Holmstrom is one of those players that feels like he has been with the organization for a very, very long time, having been selected 23rd overall by GM Lou Lamoriello in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The reality is it hasn't been that long. Holmstrom started with the Isles at 18 years old, and like other prospects, including defenseman Samuel Bolduc, his development was delayed and stunted by two COVID-impacted seasons.
Our expectations to see drafted players making an impact, especially those taken in the first round within a few years, is often a jaded expectation. The most important thing is that Holmstrom has shown improvement and growth in recent years. At AHL Bridgeport, he was entrusted with more responsibility and ice time in different situations, developing into a 200-foot player that can be used on the penalty kill and power play.
When a forward is drafted in the first round, it's done with the belief that the player will be able to score at the NHL level. Holmstrom showed flashes but mostly underachieved last season, with only six goals and three assists in 50 games. It was the ability to play a responsible defensive game that came as a pleasant surprise. He could be trusted not to make mistakes, which will often cause young players to lose ice time early in their careers.
At the AHL level, after a slow start, the scoring eventually picked up for the Swede, scoring 12 goals and 43 points in 68 games with Bridgeport during the 2021-22 season. The Isles are hopeful that there will be a similar uptick next season. The Islanders extended Hudson Fasching, but Pierre Engvall is an unrestricted free agent and could be difficult to bring back. Then there's the uncertainty of Zach Parise's status next season and a resolution to Josh Bailey's situation.
There's reason to believe that, similar to last season, there will be an opportunity for Holmstrom in the top-nine. If it doesn't come to start the season, it likely will at some point due to injury or performance. Last season, Holmstrom proved to head coach Lane Lambert and the organization that he can be relied on. Now he has to start showing more than that.