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New York Islanders

Wahlstrom’s First Chance Under Roy May Be Last With Islanders



AP Photo/Mark Zaleski

East Meadow, NY– Oliver Wahlstrom has had chance after chance after chance to assert himself as a regular in the New York Islanders lineup.

He had them under former head coaches Barry Trotz and Lane Lambert. As he draws into the lineup against the Florida Panthers tonight, he’ll get his first chance under new head coach Patrick Roy, and it could be his last with the Islanders.

“I’ve seen a lot of good practice players. Now, I want to see the player on the ice,” Roy said. “I know he has beautiful hands and that he can make moves. I see everything.”

Wahlstrom has been a healthy scratch through Roy’s first three games behind the bench. His last game came while Lambert was still in charge, an Islanders’ 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 16.

The 23-year-old was held off the scoresheet that night for his seventh consecutive game without a point. It’s a streak that doesn’t read well on its own, and then you note that Wahlstrom’s last point came more than two months ago, as he’s been in and out of the Islanders lineup.

In 22 games, Wahlstrom has just five points.

Inconsistency has been an issue of Wahlstrom’s long before Roy came along. But even though he only just took over the team a week ago, Roy understands how a lack of playing time has affected Wahlstom and wants to do what he can to help the young forward.

“It’s hard for a guy that has been out of the lineup,” Roy said. “When he comes back in, you want to [ask him], ‘Is there something you don’t understand? Is there something I can help you to understand?’ If it’s not me, it could be [assistant coach John MacLean], could be [assistant coach Doug Houda]  or the video guys. I really want to make sure that when the player comes in the lineup, they feel good and that all he has to worry about is playing the game.”

Last summer, Wahlstrom signed a one-year qualifying offer with the Islanders as a restricted free agent. It wasn’t the deal he wanted, but one he had to take in order to prove himself after an injury-shortened season the year prior.

Entering training camp, Wahlstrom had a clear mindset that Roy says hasn’t wavered despite the lack of playing time.

“I’m very happy with his attitude,” Roy said. “He’s making sure that he stays focused and works hard, and when he goes into meetings, he understands everything.”

But a good attitude only gets a player so far in the NHL. At some point, they have to produce, especially when they have Wahlstrom’s talent and ability.

“The game is not just about skills now,” Roy said. “There are players who are high-skilled guys, but they just can’t play in the structure. You need to be a good mix. A guy needs to be able to perform within the structure but also capable of doing it individually. The game is so fast. Everybody has videos. Everybody studies everybody. If a player cannot play within your structure, it makes it tough. It makes it very tough.”

As Wahlstrom draws back into the Islanders’ lineup tonight, he has the benefit of playing in a system that is new not only to him but to his teammates as well.

The only difference is that they’ve proven themselves time and time before.

As the NHL’s trade deadline draws nearer, Wahlstrom can’t keep waiting.




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