It hasn’t been the most seamless of returns to the lineup for NY Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom, who is coming off a torn ACL. Appearing in five games this season, Wahlstrom has yet to produce a point through his inconsistent play.
Drafted 11th overall in 2018, the Isles had high hopes for Wahlstrom, who was considered to be the best shooter in his draft class. Scoring just 32 times in 166 games, it’s safe to say Wahlstrom has not lived up to his billing and now leaves the Isles front office with a decision to make regarding what’s next for the 23-year-old.
Given multiple opportunities to play with the team's top-6 since making his debut in 2019, Wahlstrom has failed to capitalize, seeing him reduced often to the third line.
Playing checking line minutes mostly on JG Pageau’s wing, Wahlstrom has been OK, showing that he has a place in this league, just maybe not how he envisioned. A healthy scratch for last night's game in favor of Hudson Fasching, it's likely Fasching will remain in the lineup after his strong performance against the Washington Capitals.
While every team needs solid checking line forwards, the Isles already have an abundance of these types of players who genuinely do a better job at it than Wahlstrom. So what are the Isles to do with a goal scorer who doesn’t score goals but doesn’t check as well as the checkers?
Every day that Wahlstrom is a healthy scratch and the longer he goes goalless, the more his value is diminished. A team in win-now mode doesn’t have the roster room or salary space to wait for players to become something they’ve shown very little of in the past.
With Adam Pelech potentially missing time after his injury last night, it may be in the Isles' best interest to move Wahlstrom for defensive help. They’d need to find someone with an exceedingly low cap hit as there’s not much wiggle room. If the Pelech injury isn’t too serious where he’ll miss significant time, a defenseman on the cheap can compete with Sebastian Aho for the sixth defenseman role upon Pelech’s return.
If Lou Lamoriello and the Isles are willing to make a splash in the trade market again, Wahlstrom can be used as a piece to attempt to pry Noah Hanifin away from the Calgary Flames. Subsequent moves would need to be made to fit his $4.95M cap hit, but the move would solidify the Isles' defense. The reeling Flames have recorded five points through ten games, ahead of only the winless San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference. The Flames have paused all contract negotiations with players as the front office determines the direction the organization heads in after their brutal start.
There’s still time for Wahlstrom to turn his season and career with the Islanders around, but time is dwindling before the organization decides on his future with the team.