New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz did not consistently dress the same linemates alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau last season. With the injury to Anders Lee, Pageau saw a revolving door to his left and his right as Trotz trusted Pageau to play consistently through the chaotic situation.
Despite a solid campaign, with 14 goals and 14 assists in 54 games, Pageau never had the chance to develop the chemistry that he needed to take his game to another level.
Trotz, the Islanders, and most importantly Pageau can breathe a sigh of relief since that won’t be an issue this season.
It’s been pretty clear since Day 1 of training camp who would make up that third line. Pageau will remain the center with Oliver Wahlstrom on one side and Zach Parise on the other.
The newest member of the Islanders in Parise was brought in on a one-year deal to fill a void in the starting lineup. When top-line winger Jordan Eberle was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, signing Kyle Palmieri became much-more important.
Palmieri ultimately re-signed and slotted into Eberle’s spot on the top line. That meant the Islanders were looking to add depth-forward. When Parise hit the market following his buyout from the Minnesota Wild, it seemed like a match made in heaven.
Parise is the definition of a Trotz-type player. The 16-year veteran is a grinder, using his speed, strength and hard-working mentality to make him successful on the ice. More importantly, his willingness to be responsible in his own zone makes him a perfect fit in Trotz’s system.
He can provide offense on the power play, a need for this club, and Parise can be trusted enough to play on the penalty kill.
Pageau and Parise have already been working with one another during camp and established a bit of chemistry during that time.
Wahlstrom is fresh off a breakout season, where the rookie showcased the offensive tools he has in his arsenal. The 11th overall pick back in 2018 collected 21 points in 44 games with his shoot-first mentality.
That mindset separated Wahlstrom from many of his teammates. For a team that lacked consistent offense, Wahlstrom was a bright light and Pageau played a part in that production.
After Wahlstrom began getting more consistent playing time, the benefits to the third line at the time were noticeable, especially for an Islanders offense that struggled to produce.
The already developed chemistry between Pageau and Wahlstrom should only blossom even more in year two. And throwing Parise into the mix shouldn’t cause any issues since he’s someone who understands Pageau’s mindset.
Wahlstrom seemed like a shoo-in to remain alongside Pageau and Parise this season. Trotz told the media that Wahlstrom was not having the best of camps and needed to see more from his rising star, which shredded some doubt about how safe Wahlstrom’s position was in the lineup.
Despite the callout from his head coach, Wahlstrom’s job should be fine given the abundance of potential offense that he possesses.
A youngster on a Trotz team needs to earn every minute he sees. Jean-Gabriel Pageau now has another dynamic player like himself, which will also open the ice for Wahlstrom.
The importance of having three capable scorers on a line was evident last year in a different way. On the top line, Barzal had the opposite problem as he took the brunt of the focus from other teams with Eberle struggling and Komarov not known as an offensive threat.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is Cizikas-like in the energy he brings to the lineup. But energy only takes a player so far, as they need linemates to produce. A facilitator, as well as a scoring threat, Pageau will be able to get the puck to two capable scorers.
Watching Pageau’s play from last season one common theme emerged. He was not on the ice with the linemates he was put with to start the game, whether it was elongated, overlapping shifts or in-game lineup tweaks by Trotz, which he does from time to time.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau wins it for the Islanders 🤝
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) January 19, 2021
— NHL (@NHL) April 12, 2021
Both Pageau and Parise have been consistent over their NHL careers, which should lead to a consistent output this year.
Wahlstrom should never have to worry about getting chances and it will be up to him to finish them off and become a more consistent threat in a full 82-games, his first full NHL season.
Trotz stated that this is the deepest Islander team he has had over his tenure. Pageau now has the pieces alongside him to be dynamic and help his line pull their weight in what will be a grueling year,