East Meadow, NY– Throughout rookie and training camp, Simon Holmstrom found himself annexed from the New York Islanders’ locker room inside Northwell Health Ice Center.
Instead, he dressed in a small room adjacent to the men’s bathroom to get ready for practice, crammed in with the rest of the organization’s prospects.
“It was fairly early,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said when asked at what point the decision was made that Holmstrom would get the first chance at playing the all-important role.
“He started well in rookie camp, and he just continued on. We saw a lot of good things from him last year, and he was really coming into his own. I think he’s even taken a step further than that.”
Holmstrom debuted for the Islanders last year at 20 years old but only put up nine points in 50 games. His adjustment to the NHL is still an ongoing process.
“I think I didn’t really put out my best last year,” Holmstrom told NYI Hockey Now. “I just got to go start to produce.”
Getting the opportunity to play with Horvat and Barzal should help that cause.
After the way the duo performed together in brief stints last year, their reunion this season has been highly anticipated and will have a great effect on the Islanders’ playoff chances.
But what effect will the addition of Holmstrom have on that dynamic? Early results say a positive one.
In the Islanders’ exhibition against the New York Rangers on Sep. 30, Holmstrom made an impressive cross-ice feed through the neutral zone that hit Horvat in stride, setting him up to enter the attacking zone with speed to beat Jonathan Quick for a wrap-around goal.
Watch on MSGN and stream on MSG+ pic.twitter.com/HJaWfTUFLj
— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) September 30, 2023
According to Natural Stat Trick, the line of Holmstrom, Horvat and Barzal held the heavy advantage in possession stats in three preseason games, generating eight high-danger scoring chances and maintaining a 1.74 expected goals for.
“I knew [Holmstrom] was going to be in our lineup at some point,” Barzal said. “I’m happy that he’s getting that look this year early. He’s just smart. He’s big, got silky hands and a good shot, so I think he’s got a little bit of everything. I think once he gets comfortable using his size a little more, he’s going to catch some people off guard. He’s got a lot of intangibles and skates pretty well.”
In 2019, Barzal was at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver when the Islanders selected Holmstrom with the 23rd overall pick. As someone who was quite literally there for the start of his career, Barzal has witnessed all the growth Holmstrom has experienced since.
“He came in and just looked young,” Barzal said. “You see him now, and he’s got some size to him. When he lays into guys on the ice, his puck protection is maybe the best on our team. I’m excited for him. He’s been up and down a little bit, and I’m excited for him to hopefully just be in full-time, and hopefully, our line clicks right away.”
For Holmstrom, the excitement is all his.
“They’re two unbelievable players,” Holmstrom said. “There’s nothing to complain about there. I’m just trying to get out there and do my thing and help them.”