East Meadow, NY– The start of training camp marks the first time that the New York Islanders take the ice as a whole in five months, but it’s been a much longer wait for one member of the team.
Oliver Wahlstrom skated with the Islanders for the first time on Thursday since suffering a lower-body injury last December that forced him to miss the final 47 games of the regular season and playoffs last year.
“It was awesome,” said Wahlstrom about making his return. “It was almost a year off. It’s so fun and exciting. It was a good skate. I’ll get the lungs back under me and go from there, but I’m really happy to be back.”
“It’s just one day, but I thought he looked good,” said Islanders head coach Lane Lambert. “Here’s a guy who’s coming off a long, long injury. Today was not an easy day. It never is. I thought he looked good. I thought he shot the puck well.”
This year will be the most important of Wahlstrom’s young career thus far, as the former 2018 first-round draft pick has yet to realize his potential entering his fifth NHL season.
Although he likely would’ve received a better contract had he not gotten hurt, Wahlstrom signed a one-year qualifying offer as a restricted free agent this summer. Now, the 23-year-old will need to prove his value by having the best season of his career.
“For sure, there’s a little bit of a prove it factor this year,” said Wahlstrom. “I found a little more clarity in this injury, a little more clear headspace. My mindset is that I’ve got nothing to lose this year. For me, that opens up things in my game. This injury was unbelievable for me.”
While Wahlstrom’s return was expected, it came as a slight surprise to see Alex Romanov practicing as well.
Islanders president of hockey operations and general manager Lou Lamoriello disclosed last week that the timeline for the defenseman’s return was unclear after he underwent shoulder surgery this offseason.
Romanov said he spent the majority of the summer on Long Island and is now back to full strength after going through a two to three-month rehab process.
“I couldn’t wait already,” said Romanov. “I spent like four months without practicing with this whole group. I was kidding by myself without goalies. It was tough days, but I can’t describe how I feel right now. Just so exciting.”
The Islanders had nearly perfect attendance on the first day of training camp, except for Kyle Palmieri. The veteran forward took a maintenance day after tweaking something while preparing for the start of camp, per Islanders PR.
Training camp for the Islanders will continue on Friday, leading up to their first preseason game on Sep. 26 at the New York Rangers.