Oliver Wahlstrom’s Emergence


Wahlstrom has had an amazing start to his rookie season, leading the Islanders third unit as a critical part of their recent success. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The New York Islanders have been on fire as of late, winning 11 of their last 13 games with more consistent offensive production than in previous years. That is coming largely from the stick of 20-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom. The first-round pick from Yarmouth, Massachusetts has scored eight goals and earned 15 points in 26 games so far. His rookie season started off later than most of the rookies currently in the Calder trophy conversation, but if the second half of the season is anything like the first, he will find himself right there with Kirill Kaprizov. 

Wahlstrom was the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, the first pick Lou Lamoriello made as General Manager and just one spot ahead of defenseman Noah Dobson. Both picks were highly rated after the draft, and it was curious as to why Wahlstrom fell to 11. His biggest strength was his offense, specifically his wrist shot. So far, that has translated beautifully to the NHL. He scored goals at a nice clip in the AHL and NCAA with Boston College, but the way he’s been able to slot in with J.G. Pageau on the third line and the second power-play unit has been remarkable. His goal in Monday’s game against Philadelphia tied up a game the Isles had no business winning; he potted a shootout winner against New Jersey, and his power-play prowess has given some life to what was a dead unit for many years in the past. 

Oliver Wahlstrom is the goal scorer that Jordan Eberle, Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho Sang, Ryan Strome and many others were supposed to be when they got to the Islanders. Wahlstrom will inevitably end up on the first line with Barzal at some point in his career, but it is a testament to how deep the Isles are that he has stayed on the third unit. If Wahlstrom can become an elite goal scorer over the length of his Islander career, he is exactly the guy they have needed since the beginning of John Tavares’ tenure on the Island.

With Anders Lee out, the easy option was to bring Wahlstrom up to the top unit, but the decision to keep him with Pageau has proven to be correct. To get him used to playing with someone who we know will be on the Isles for years to come and create chemistry is not only good for the future but good for this team as it heads to the playoffs.

Last year, Pageau was great in the playoffs, scoring a big goal against Philadelphia and providing a power-play option they did not have before the trade. Now with an elite goal scorer on his wing, the sky is the limit for this third line. Michael Dal Colle scored his first goal of the season last week, and if he becomes a little bit more of an offensive option, there will be no holes in this offensive unit.

Oliver Wahlstrom has provided the goal-scoring that the Islanders desperately needed, and he has already helped them win games they would not have won before. If Wahlstrom can continue to round into form, the Islanders have a good chance to get right back where they were last year.