As the start of the season draws nearer for the New York Islanders, it’s time we begin to discuss expectations for some of the team’s key players.
Looking across the board, expectations for the Islanders this year are wide-ranging. As we conduct this exercise, we will outline both the player’s ceiling and floor for this season and then set our expectations somewhere in the middle.
In a late December matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year, Wahlstrom suffered a lower-body injury that prematurely ended his season after only 35 games.
Entering his fifth year in the league, the 23-year-old faces an uphill battle, needing to show he can still be the high-production goal scorer the Islanders drafted him to be.
In order for Wahlstrom to have the best season possible, he has to get out to a fast start.
The young forward has been incredibly hot and cold throughout his career, often showing flashes of his full potential in short spurts but never maintaining it for extended stretches.
He began last year by scoring three goals in his first two games but then quickly had a drop-off. In his final 33 games before getting hurt, Wahlstrom had just four goals and ended the year with only 16 points.
A player’s confidence is pushed to its limit while they recover from an injury. Of course, they feel the injury heal and see improvement physically, but doubts aren’t silenced until they’re back in action. Now, after not having played in ten months, Wahlstrom will be eager to make his return.
Scoring a few goals in his first handful of games will be a huge boost to his confidence and could go a long way for him this season.
It may sound harsh, but the worst possible outcome for Wahlstrom this season is to return and be the same player he was before.
Prior to getting hurt last year, he was likely expecting some sort of a pay raise as a restricted free agent this offseason. Instead, he had to settle for a cheap, one-year qualifying offer and now must prove that he’s deserving of more.
If he doesn’t, it might be the beginning of the end of Wahlstrom’s time with the Islanders.
Wahlstrom needs to have a career year this season.
Considering his career high in points is only 24, it shouldn’t take all that much.
That’s really the thing with Wahlstrom, though. It shouldn’t take that much for a player with his ability to produce, yet he always leaves you wanting more.
He’ll be given a little bit of a longer leash to start the year as he reacclimates to the game.
However, he will soon start to hear it if he continues to be so streaky, which is something neither he nor the Islanders can afford.