For the second game in a row, Oliver Wahlstrom was watching from high above the Nassau Coliseum ice rather than on it himself. New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz opted to have the 20-year-old rookie scratched, sending shockwaves throughout Islander country.
To say the decision didn’t sit well with people might be putting it mildly, but the Islanders bench boss had his reasoning.
“Obviously we’re really close to the deadline. After the deadline, it’s open roster so we’re just maximizing our roster,” Trotz said before the Islanders were defeated by the New York Rangers, 4-1. “(Wahlstrom) is available to play, but we’re going to maximize our roster so we don’t have to expose anybody.”
The Islanders needed the space on the roster after they traded for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac on Wednesday night. There is currently a 23-man max on the roster until Monday, so the team has to do some lineup gymnastics.
Oliver Wahlstrom does not require waivers to be placed on the taxi squad. Thus making him the one to draw the short straw as far as whether or not he is in the lineup.
🎥 Trotz Pregame Availability 🎥 pic.twitter.com/cVF44H5vrY
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 9, 2021
The explanation certainly please some, especially after Friday’s ugly loss to the rival Rangers, but it should quell some of the fear that Wahlstrom may be injured, failing out of favor or even on the trade block. Trotz reaffirmed that as well.
“I think he’s really valuable for us,” Trotz said. I think he’s a young player that has pretty good impact in our game, especially on the power play. … He has fallen off just a little bit, but his production is good. I think he’s really separated himself from some of the players that are part of the taxi squad, some of the young guys. He’s done a really good job there.
“I think he’s part of our long-term plans and also immediate lineup, absolutely. He’s a good player.”
Oliver Wahlstrom is in the middle of his first full season in the NHL. He has appeared in 32 games with the Islanders and he has 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in that span. Wahlstrom’s shot has become a valuable asset to the Islanders’ offense.
However, he has cooled down a bit and has been held without a point over his previous five games. Trotz is hoping the time off will help jumpstart the Islanders rookie.
“I’m maximizing our roster and maybe reinvigorating Wahlly a little bit too,” Trotz said. “A little bit of rest and that. Once he gets back in I think he’ll be back to his usual form.”