There might be an extra jump in the step of Oliver Wahlstrom on Saturday afternoon when the New York Islanders host the New Jersey Devils at Webster Bank Arena.
It would be understandable after head coach Barry Trotz said on Friday that the highly touted forward hadn’t had the “greatest of camps to this point.” Wahlstrom will play against New Jersey in the Islanders’ third preseason game of the year, but Trotz will likely be looking for more out of the young forward.
“The key for him where he made big strides last year was moving the feet and participating in the game, rather than watching the game,” Trotz said. “That’s probably the self-awareness. We’ve had these talks and discussions. I could go to Wahlly after his last game and (ask) how’d you play? He’d go ‘not very well.’ He would recognize it, where I would ask that same question last year and he went ‘well I thought it was pretty good.’ There’s a better self-recognition and I think he’s taken care of himself and trained differently in the summer.
“He’s converting over into a complete pro.”
Self-awareness is needed for a player like Wahlstrom, who is expected to make the lineup, but isn’t a full guarantee. The Islanders have a deep pool at forward and several players that would require waivers to be sent down. Oliver Wahlstrom is one of the only forwards that wouldn’t need to go through waivers if the Islanders had to make a tough choice between players on the bubble.
Could Oliver Wahlstrom start the season in Bridgeport? It's not out of the question #Isles fans. @AGrossNewsday explained why during On The Line, brought to you by @TIETECHNOLOGY1. Catch the full episode here: https://t.co/hcoQ7XG38p pic.twitter.com/gb0dHdsA3Q
— Hockey Night NY (@hockeynightny) September 28, 2021
Richard Panik has had a notably strong showing in camp with the Islanders after the first week. He has appeared in both of the Isles’ first two preseason games and Trotz hasn’t been scared to use him in a top-9 role.
“There have been lessons every year that guys are saying you can’t get very comfortable. A guy that might have been on our team last year or the year before you look around now you might not even be on the team,” Trotz said. “That’s a wake-up call sometimes because this game passes you by based on where you are, but teams are trying to get better, Teams are trying to move forward and win the Stanley Cup. Organizationally they keep trying to raise the bar and if you don’t raise your own personal bar you could get left behind pretty quick.”
The first game of the year is just 13 days away and the Islanders have plenty of expectations on them. As do those that made an impression last season. Wahlstrom made a name for himself during the Islanders 2020-21 season with his scoring ability.
Oliver Wahlstrom had 12 goals and 21 points in 44 games last year. He added another three points in the playoff before an injury in Game 5 ended his season early.
The 21-year-old knows though that his consistency will need to be better for him to be in the lineup with so much competition.
“I found that last year,” Wahlstrom said. “I had some ups and downs and also just the mental part of the game. Playing in the NHL and older guys, it’s a learning curve and this year it’s all about consistency and finding ways to be at my best. No matter how I’m feeling or what the circumstances are. That’s what I’m starting to learn.”
While it’s not time to worry for the young forward, Trotz’s comments are certain to perk up Wahlstrom’s ears and add some extra motivation for the rest of training camp.
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