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Trotz Shuffles Islanders Lines, Nelson In, Wahlstrom Gets a Shot?

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New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom making a move around defenseman Noah Dobson at practice

At New York Islanders practice Monday and Tuesday, the second line consisted of Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson, two forwards that have played together often over the last few seasons. But in the right-wing spot was 21-year old Oliver Wahlstrom.

Could the elevation on Wahlstrom alongside Nelson and Beauvillier get the Islanders offense going at a more consistent rate?

Despite an uptick in offensive performance over the recent four-game point streak, the New York Islanders have not been what you would call “offensively productive” this season. The Islanders have scored just 2.29 goals per game, the third-fewest in the NHL, and have recorded the fifth-fewest shots per game at 28.5.

Forward Brock Nelson has only played in 19 of the team’s 28 games this season due to a lower-body injury as well a stint in COVID-19 protocol.

Whether it has been Kyle Palmieri or Josh Bailey on the right of Nelson, neither clicked. And with the way Anthony Beauvillier struggled out of the gate, the second line failed to live up to expectations.

Nelson had been the only bright spot, as his 10 goals has him atop the Islanders leaderboard, even having missed eight games this season.

Wahlstrom and Nelson both have not played since the shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 19 due to COVID-19 and will play their first game in 25 days if and when the puck drops on Thursday.

Both players are considered goal scorers, but Wahlstrom’s success prior to entering the COVID-19 protocol was not because of his shot but more because of his playmaking.

On the season, Wahlstrom has eight goals and seven assists in 19 games (15 points). Six over those assists have come in Wahlstrom’s last five contests.

And on a line with Nelson, Wahlstrom’s passing ability and vision could pay dividends.

Now Nelson and Wahlstrom have not played a ton of minutes together on a line, as they have been on the ice together for 26:36 minutes this season.

However, they have outscored their opponents 2-0 over that span.

Back in March of 2021, Wahlstrom and Nelson combined for a dandy against the Buffalo Sabres.

Both Nelson and Wahlstrom have a shoot-first mentality, as Nelson (46 SOG) has averaged 2.42 shots per game, while Wahlstrom, who leads the New York Islanders with 65 shots, has averaged 2.5 shots per game.

Wahlstrom also leads the Islanders with 30 missed shots, Nelson with 15.

Here’s how those shots broke down for each of these two players excluding deflections and wraparounds:

Nelson: 25 wrist shots, 6 snap shots, 4 slap shots, 6 backhand

Wahlstrom: 37 wrist shots, 10 snap shots, 13 slap shots, 3 backhand

Despite Wahlstrom lining up on the right side of Nelson, that does not mean that he is cemented to that side of the ice. With the way Wahlstrom has shown to let the one-timer go, we could see some creative cross-over plays that see Wahlstrom open up on the left side when Nelson has the puck on his stick.

Having two shoot-first forwards will help the Islanders rack up points as even if the shots are stopped by the opposing netminders, Anthony Beauvillier is a player that can turn those missed chances into goals.

In the game against the Edmonton Oilers on New Year’s Day, Beauvillier tied the game at two apiece in the third period as he was positioned perfectly to bury a rebound.

Since being benched on Nov. 11 against the New Jersey Devils, Beauvillier has looked more like the player the Islanders have come to see over the last few seasons. His speed, his biggest weapon, has been on display as well as his ability to crash the net.

Not to mention, Beauvillier currently ranks third on the Islanders in shots on goal with 57, 2.28 shots per game.

Beauvillier has five goals and four assists in 25 games played.

Over the Islanders’ four-game point streak they have scored seven 5 on 5 goals, just 1.4 per game. In order for the New York Islanders to get closer to a playoff spot by the end of an 11-game stretch before the All-Star break, the second line will need to produce.

With Nelson back in and Wahlstrom seeing his role elevated, these could be the changes that lead to more success from the offense.

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