As we count down the hours before the New York Islanders take on the Dallas Stars, the likelihood that Simon Holmstrom returns from a six-game absence grows.
Initially called up to fill the hole that Kyle Palmieri left behind, Simon Holmstrom quickly became a reliable option for New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert. He showcased a strong defensive game and was starting to get comfortable offensively before the lower-body injury.
In 14 games for New York, the 21-year-old Holmstrom had a goal and an assist, and if he does return Tuesday, his teammates are excited to have him back in the lineup.
“He sees the ice so well, and he’s got the skill to open the ice up with it,” Islanders captain Anders Lee told NYI Hockey Now. “I think his game was extremely well rounded, especially for his age, and his defensive play and headiness is, I think, what carries him through a lot.”
When Holmstrom was injured in the Dec. 23 contest against the Florida Panthers, it appeared to be a bad knee injury. But less than two weeks after the injury, Holmstrom was skating on his own and then made his way back to the team practice following their return from their road trip.
“I know he put a lot of work in while we were on the road and getting his strength back to where he needed it and getting his stamina back and looks like he where he left off, so that’s the biggest thing,” Lee said.
Holmstrom, if he plays, will skate alongside Lee and Mathew Barzal.
As for what he brings to that line: “Like I was saying, just his headiness of the game, the way he sees it. And he’s always looking to make a pass, and [we need to] get him to shoot a little bit more, bring the puck to the net. I think he’s going to do really well,” Lee said.
There’s been times that Holmstrom has been a little too pass-happy, especially on odd-man rushes, so that’s something he needs to keep in mind when playing with a player like a Barzal, which he has done (48 minutes).
But his one NHL goal came from a strong slot shot, and going hard to the slot was something Holmstrom did a bit more before the injury.
Pager with the soccer play to keep it in and it's Holmstrom's first NHL 🚨 pic.twitter.com/CnNkbcrfJV
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) December 18, 2022
Islanders All-Star Brock Nelson liked what he saw offensively from Holmstrom before he went down.
“I think you saw both sides of it, but offensively for sure. He’s really strong on his stick. He’s got a good range on him, good reach. He’s got good instincts. It looks like he’s comfortable and growing each and every day with confidence,” Brock Nelson said. “And he moves so well for a guy that’s a little bit bigger. So that’s a nice package, and it’s dangerous.”
Holmstrom’s return makes the Islanders deeper and can help them turn things around.
“Just another piece for us. I mean, huge for the depth offensively, for sure. You’re always looking to find ways, and especially right now, [trying] to turn the ship around after a couple of games where we didn’t get offense, getting him back could be a nice spot for us.”
Although not a forward, veteran defenseman Ryan Pulock has been impressed with Holmstrom’s game to this point.
“Simon, he’s come up here partway through this year and has done a really good job,” Pulock said. “I think he continued to grow prior to his injury of just getting better and being reliable and then having some of that offensive instincts. His shot is very elite.
“Hopefully, he’s back and can help out that line, be a bit of a shooter on that line.”