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WahlSTORM: Can Oliver Wahlstrom Still be the Answer to the Islanders Biggest Question?



New York Islanders, Oliver Wahlstrom
New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom (Courtesy of New York Islanders Instagram)

Another game, another electric performance from 22-year-old right winger Oliver Wahlstrom.

After potting a goal and notching an assist in Saturday’s 7-1 rout of the Anaheim Ducks, Oliver Wahlstrom built off that performance with two goals against the San Jose Sharks.

It was the breakaway move on Saturday, but on Tuesday, the two goals were of the sniper variety.

His first of the contest was a perfectly placed shot just under the glove of Sharks netminder James Reimer which gave the New York Islanders a 3-2 lead with 56 seconds to play in the second period.

“Lee, on my first goal, was the one who really picked the guy, and you know, Brock did all the work on the face-off, and I just kind of leaned into my shot, so it was awesome,” Oliver Wahlstrom said.

When the third period began, Oliver Wahlstrom was no longer with his starting linemates. He had been elevated to the Islanders’ second line and played the final frame with captain Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, where he notched goal number two.

After the game, New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert addressed why he made the changes.

“We weren’t going as good as we wanted to be going. So, you know, we had to just make a little shake-up and see if that led to a spark, and fortunately, it did.”

Wahlstrom’s second goal, which gave the Islanders a critical two-goal cushion, came after he jumped on a loose puck following strong forechecking by Anders Lee and Noah Dobson.

New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert told us before Saturday’s contest that Wahlstrom is a shooter, and that’s what they need him to do.

Through two games, Oliver Wahlstrom has shown tremendous growth in his game from last season and a newfound confidence that we had not seen from him since 2020-21.

In 24 minutes played this season, Wahlstrom now has three goals on eight shots, one being a game-winner and an assist. He’s taken one face-off, which he won, and he has yet to turn the puck over.

When Wahlstrom scored 12 goals in 44 games during the 2020-21 season, all eyes pointed to him as the future elite sniper for this hockey club.

The New York Islanders, under former New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, never had a true sniper, and it was encouraging to see a former 11th overall pick turn into a promising player.

Despite setting a new career-high in goals, 13, Oliver Wahlstrom took a step back in 2021-22.

He played in 73 games, 29 more games than the previous year, and potted just one more goal. His ice time was down from 12:23 to 12:04, and because of his inability to grasp the Trotz, defensive-minded system, he often found himself benched for periods at a time, even being a healthy scratch.

Not to mention, Trotz would call him out in the media time and time again, even in games in which he scored.

When in the lineup, Wahlstrom played like he was scared to make a mistake, knowing what would happen. It seemed his confidence waivered, and the question started to creep into the back of everyone’s mind.

Does Oliver Wahlstrom have the skills to be the sniper this New York Islanders team desperately needs and eventually be able to play with Mathew Barzal?

After the 2021-22 season, the answer was leaning toward no.

When Barry Trotz was fired a few weeks after the season ended due to the Islanders’ “needing a new voice’,” there were thoughts that a new head coach may allow a player like Wahlstrom to blossom if the system played with a little more offensive focus.

After Lane Lambert was hired and showcased a more aggressive system, and we saw what Oliver Wahlstrom looked like during training camp, that belief that he could be that sniper for Barzal and the Islanders started to creep back into the mind.

But when Wahlstrom did not play the first game of the season, it seemed that Kieffer Bellows had surpassed Wahlstrom on the depth chart after a solid end to his 2021-22 season. Now Wahlstrom had missed the final three preseason games with an injury, but Lambert made it seem that him not playing in game one was not just for that reason.

After the Islanders lost to the Florida Panthers 3-1, despite a tremendous amount of chances, Lambert swapped out Kieffer Bellows and put Oliver Wahlstrom on the third line along with Josh Bailey and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

So far, that decision has paid dividends, and Wahlstrom said it best following Tuesday’s win as the most important thing.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve had confidence. I think it’s just [about] being consistent with it and, you know, playing the right way. I think that’s the most important part, and I got great teammates to lean on and talk to and keep it going.”