Through his 13 games, New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom has not been good enough consistently. He came into training camp with a new, fresh mindset, one of confidence, after that confidence seemed to get shattered throughout the 2021-22 season.
The 22-year-old was doing the little things to start the year. He was forechecking and back-checking hard. Rather than holding onto the puck or trying to do too much at the opponent’s blue line, he was dumping the puck in, making more intelligent decisions.
Five games into his season (missed opening night), Oliver Wahlstrom was a threat on a nightly basis, racking up 18 total shots and at least a shot in each. His shot total led the team over that stretch, along with his 15 individual scoring chances and six high-danger chances at even strength, with three goals.
He was responsible with just one minor penalty and only two turnovers over that span while averaging 11:48 minutes per game.
But then things with Oliver took a twist.
From Strong Start to Mediocre Play
After three goals in his first two games of the season, Oliver Wahlstrom has only found the back of the net once over his last eight games, with just 11 total shots.
Wahlstrom has resorted back to the play that got him benched by Barry Trotz a season ago, as he is making poor decisions on the ice and has not shot the puck enough alongside Mathew Barzal.
His 11 shots rank ninth-best on the team over that span. He has 18 individual scoring chances but just five-high-danger chances, which rank fifth and sixth, respectively. Wahlstrom’s taken five penalties (10 PIM), with one in four of the last five games, and has turned the puck over five times.
Wahlstrom has averaged 11:28 minutes over that span.
“Please, sir, I want some more [minutes],” as Oliver Twist would have said if he was a hockey player.
And Lambert’s response could be, “I want some more shots,” which is what he said prior to the game against the New York Rangers.
Wahlstrom’s Game Against Rangers
Before the contest against the New York Rangers, NYI Hockey Now asked New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert what he needed to see more of from his 22-year-old sniper.
“He’s done the little things. He’s done the details. We’d like to see him get more shots on goal because that’s what he is [a shooter],” Lambert said.
Despite creating scoring chances for himself, Oliver Wahlstrom is a player who needs a playmaker skating alongside him. And he got that back on Oct. 26 when he was placed on the line with Mathew Barzal.
He’s had the chances, but he is not getting the results.
When warmups came and went Tuesday, Wahlstrom was no longer on Barzal’s wing, as he took Cal Clutterbuck’s spot (injury) on the fourth line. The speedy Nikita Soshnikov got the chance with Barzal.
Despite getting a shot on his first shift and backchecking hard, he had a few ill-enforced turnovers.
One came in the offensive zone, as he flung the puck to no one in the high slot, which led to a New York Rangers rush up the ice. Fortunately for Wahlstrom, the Rangers did not capitalize.
Right after Wahlstrom made the pass, he hung his head down, and when he got back to the bench, he slammed the door shut and dropped his head yet again.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) November 9, 2022
Wahlstrom then received a talking-to from his head coach.
He played 4:40 minutes in the first period with two giveaways, a shot, and a block.
In the second period, Wahlstrom played a bit better. Early in the frame, he made a strong play along the boards before dishing a nifty backhand pass to Casey Cizikas in front of the Rangers’ goal, but Cizikas missed it.
And just as it seemed that Wahlstrom was turning his game around, he took an offensive zone interference penalty.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) November 9, 2022
The Islanders killed it off.
Before the end of the second period, Lane Lambert changed his lines and reunited Wahlstrom with Barzal, a move that immediately created a scoring chance.
After Barzal skated over the Rangers’ blue line, he dropped the puck to Wahlstrom at the top of the left circle, who let the shot go but rang the puck off the crossbar. He played just 1:39 in the second period.
In the third period, the New York Islanders dominated the New York Rangers, erasing their two-goal lead. But the Rangers did get a chance to keep their lead at two about eight minutes into the frame after Wahlstrom shot the puck when there was no lane, leading to a block and then an eventual breakaway chance for Jimmy Vesey.
New York Islanders netmidner Semyon Varlamov came up with the clutch save, which was the game’s turning point.
Wahlstrom played only 2:51 in the final frame and finished the night with 9:10 minutes of action with two shots, two misses, one shot blocked, two-plus giveaways, and a block of his own.
On the Islanders’ game-winning goal courtesy of Anders Lee, Oliver Wahlstrom was fortunate not to be called for another offensive-zone penalty as he tripped Kaapo Kakko.
— NHL (@NHL) November 9, 2022
After the game, NYI Hockey Now asked Lambert what he had seen from Wahlstrom, who did play better when moved next to Barzal.
“I thought he started to click right toward the end of the second. He hit the crossbar. We moved him with Barzal for a little bit, and I thought he responded well.”
To be blunt, Wahlstrom has not been consistent enough. And that’s a bit concerning given that he is being relied upon heavily to be an answer for this team in year four, not still a question mark.