New York Islanders prospect, forward Simon Holmström, turned 21 on Tuesday. Remembering your 21st birthday is probably a tough ask but instead of that, let’s look back at the season Holmstrom had for the Bridgeport Islanders, his third season in North America.
It was a breakout season for Simon Holmström, who netted 12 goals with 31 assists in 68 games. His 12 goals were second-most on the club, and his 31 assists also ranked second.
In six Calder Cup Playoff games, Holmström recorded three goals and an assist. He scored his three goals over a span of two games, scoring once in Game Two of the second round against the Charlotte Checkers before playing hero in Game Three as he tallied the tie-breaking goal (2-1) and the insurance marker on the empty net (3-1).
— Bridgeport Islanders (@AHLIslanders) May 14, 2022
For Holmström, he came over to North America the year of the pandemic. Months after being selected 23rd overall by the New York Islanders, the then 19-year-old made his AHL debut.
In the 2019-20 season (46 games), Holmström scored just eight goals with seven assists. The following season, 2020-21, he had just four goals and three assists in 24 games.
External obstacles, it seems, played a pivotal part in Holmström’s development. And he was not the only youngster that was affected.
The perfect example of this is New York Islanders top prospect Aatu Räty, who struggled during the COVID-19 seasons, which led to a pelican dive in his draft rankings. But this season should instill a new sense of confidence in Holmström.
“I think Simon has continued to grow as a person off the ice. He’s in a position where I think his confidence right now is high,” Bridgeport Islanders general manager Chris Lamoriello said following the end of the season. “I think that the education that he’s been given with the playing experience, and certainly how the coaches have worked with him, has put him in a very good position right now to take another jump.”
This past season was a more normal season, despite COVID-19 still wreaking havoc, and we saw more of what was expected from the first-round draftee.
“We take for granted sometimes that he was an 18-year-old who came into the league. He was drafted (and) in a matter of months later, he’s at an NHL camp, and then we made that decision to keep him with us,” Lamoriello said. “His first season was interrupted and ended in March…last year only was 24 games. So I think this year, not to mention the fact he’s barely 20, he was able to have, if you will, a normal training camp.”
“I think the season, certainly, the fact of the different positions that he played, I thought Brent (Thompson) did an outstanding job of exposing him to more responsibility. He saw time, and significant time, on both special teams.”
What cannot be stressed enough with Simon is that he is just 21-years old and already has three years of pro hockey experience under his belt, including some playoff action as well.
Although Simon Holmstrom did not play in any games with the New York Islanders this season, he was recalled in late December, as he took part in practices as a member of the taxi squad.
Holmstrom had 15 points through 28 games prior to joining the taxi squad.
“Just to be up in the practices and yet just to be around that, it’s a huge advantage to know what it takes, how you have to prepare, the professionalism that goes on,” Bridgeport Islanders head coach Brent Thompson said. “And I think whenever you get a call-up, it just adds to your confidence.”
What will help Holmstrom get to the NHL is that he can play both wing positions. But is he ready to make a jump the NHL at just 21-years old?
Unless the New York Islanders roster changes, there is no opening for Simon Holmstrom for 2022-23.
The New York Islanders saw major growth from 23-year-old Kieffer Bellows this season, especially towards the end of the season. He played both wing positions and if he can find some consistency and build on that strong finish, he will likely be vying for an everyday spot in the lineup.
21-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom, who went through a sophomore slump, will have to prove to newly appointed head coach Lane Lambert that he deserves his ice time.
Although this past season with Bridgeport was Holmstrom’s best, this upcoming season is much more important.
It will determine if the 2021-22 season was an outlier or if that was the real Simon Holmström.