We’ve been waiting for the best version of New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom to reveal itself for some time now. He was closest to becoming a regular top-nine forward last season, but even that was still far off his first-round projections when he tore his ACL last December and was lost for the season.
Wahlstrom has had opportunities to play with Mathew Barzal; he’s had power-play time, but there always have been other aspects of his game lagging behind that his lethal shot can’t make up for, no matter how much of a weapon it could be.
With Julien Gauthier clearing waivers and being sent down to Bridgeport, Wahltrom has another opportunity and a relatively fresh start with Patrick Roy as his coach. “We had to make a decision on one player because of the cap situation,” GM Lou Lamoriello before Sunday's practice. “We're going to give Wahlstrom a good look.”
Barry Trotz and Lane Lambert each had praise for Wahlstrom but often emphasized areas of development that they needed to see for him to earn more ice time. It’s now Roy's turn to try to get the best of him. “I have time for him,” the Islanders head coach said after Sunday's practice. “I’m curious to see what is his ceiling and where he is. We’re going to do a lot of one-on-one.”
There have been flashes for Wahlstrom in each of his four seasons, but the periods of prolonged play without making an impact have made it difficult for him to be trusted with consistent minutes in pivotal situations. However, it appears the Isles are poised to give him one more shot at putting it together and showcasing the best version of himself as a hockey player.
“He has to just not worry about scoring or anything,” Lamoriello said. “Just go and play. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and he has to just go play. Just have fun — and when I say that, you have to enjoy what you do.”