Simon Holmstrom's NY Islanders future depends on a strong finish

The 23-year-old winger has struggled since the turn of the calendar year.

Mar 11, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;New York Islanders right wing Simon Holmstrom (10) shoots
Mar 11, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;New York Islanders right wing Simon Holmstrom (10) shoots / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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The NY Islanders have seen many inconsistencies since opening night against the Buffalo Sabres. The organization changed coaches from Lane Lambert to Patrick Roy in an attempt to jumpstart a team that was underperforming expectations. Furthermore, the Isles have failed to find a left wing on the first and second lines, while the third line cannot find a consistent right winger. The defense has been lackluster with the exceptions of Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov. Suffice it to say, if Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov are not perfect, the Islanders do not win games.

With the team currently 6 points behind for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, it's fair for fans to start thinking about the 2024-25 season. If the Islanders continue to play sub-par hockey, the organization will begin to evaluate individual performances more so than wins and losses to best prepare for the offseason. The performance of core players like Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat is irrelevant in this case since they are already locked into their respective roles. Free agents like Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin are also irrelevant as they will likely not have roles on this team.

However, some fringe players must perform well in April to not only earn their roles but to give the fans and organization confidence that the Isles can rebound in 2025. In particular, one of the younger players having a strong finish is integral to the Islanders' future blueprint.

Simon Holmstrom must finish the 2023-24 season strong

Simon Holmstrom has been tried in many different roles since the start of training camp. Lambert tried the 23-year-old on the left wing next to Horvat and Barzal but never found consistency. Eventually, Holmstrom was flipped with Anders Lee to play alongside J.G. Pageau on the Isles' third line. His performance drastically improved, enough so that Lambert entrusted Holmstrom to play with Pageau on the top penalty-kill unit. They found early success together as Holmstrom netted 5 shorthanded goals between November and December.

The early success of Holmstrom seemed as if he had found both his offensive and defensive niche on the third line. However, the 2019 first-round pick has just 2 goals and 5 assists since January 2nd and has had multiple games where he hasn't recorded a blocked shot, hit, or shot on goal. In fairness to Holmstrom, a lineup with Pageau is not a perfect fit given their player attributes. Pageau is defensive-minded and brings a strong forecheck, while Holmstrom has great skating ability and a solid wrist shot that he does exhibit enough.

Taking his recent struggles into account, a strong finish for Holmstrom is needed to show more development in his game than just a few shorthanded goals. For instance, the coaching staff wants to see more shot aggressiveness rather than looking to set up Pageau. This mindset figured to change if Roy stuck with the newly drawn line of Pierre Engvall, Casey Cizikas, and Holmstrom. Should he develop this part of his game while playing alongside more offensive-minded skaters, Holmstrom will earn more trust from the coaching staff heading into the offseason.