“He has a lot of talent. Do not be impatient. He will be good. He will probably do well. You are like McDonald’s. You want everything as of right now,” said New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz after a March 5 victory over St Louis Blues.
The player Trotz talked about over a month ago was 21-year-old striker Oliver Wahlstrom, who Trotz has developed into a well-rounded NHL player instead of just letting Wahlstrom remain one-dimensional.
Every time a franchise has a potential superstar, the fan base wants to see the elite play right away. And when it’s playing, off the bat or during the first few seasons, showing signs but not fully showing consistency, the fan base’s faith in a player fades – especially under the bright New York light.
After posting 12 goals and nine assists in 44 games in the 2020-2021 season, fans’ expectations of Oliver Wahlstrom were heading into this season quite high. The New York Islanders had not acquired or signed an elite striker to help bolster the offense during the offseason months, meaning they would need Wahlstrom to take a step into 2021-22.
In 65 games played this season, Oliver Wahlstrom has 13 goals and 11 assists. Although it is a new career-high in points, he only has one goal more and two more assists than he did last season in 21 more games.
Wahlstrom has shot the puck more this season than last, with 149 shots (94 shots in 2020-2021), in second place on the New York Islanders after Noah Dobson (170). His shooting percentage has dropped from last season to this season, when Wahlstrom in 2020-2021 shot at a cut of 12.8 percent.
This season, he is at 8.7 percent.
The entire fan base had been waiting to see Oliver Wahlstrom minutes with New York Islanders star Mathew Barzal as it looked like a duo that could be deadly for many years to come.
It took until 16 games ago before the two were paired with Zach Parise, but the offensive production just hasn’t been there for Wahlstrom. That line has scored six goals, with Wahlstrom scoring only twice.
As for Wahlstrom’s discipline, his trips to the penalty box have doubled this season compared to last season, with 54 PIM so far through 65 games, compared to his 21 in 44 games a season ago.
Some penalties can be avoided, but one like the one we saw Saturday night against St. Louis Blues, where Wahlstrom closed his hand on the puck, is unacceptable, and as a third-year player, Wahlstrom should know better. That penalty ended a tough night for No. 26.
“If you watch the St. Louis game, there were some bad readings by Wahlstrom in that game, and therefore it just put the whole line in a little spin cycle,” Trotz said. “There are times when one has to understand that the systematic game has to trump one’s instincts. Wahlstrom is an instinctive player … “
“Some players get a little paralyzed by the fact that especially young players they go to hit and in a way melt the ice a bit, as we say. I think he has continued to adapt and continues to learn. “Sometimes the choices are right, and sometimes they are not.”
In Friday’s match, a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, Wahlstrom played only 6:41 minutes as his time has been limited.
If it were not for a player who felt under the weather on Tuesday, all indications were that Oliver Wahlstrom was a healthy Tuesday.
“He was not really good last game, so he has to rebuild it (confidence) again,” Trotz said after Tuesday’s optional morning skate. “We’ll see. Give me the first shift, and if the first shift is good, then the second shift … we just go shift by shift.”
Going back and forth with 11 games left in a lost season is not what a young player like Wahlstrom wants to hear, but it repeats that minutes must be earned at the NHL level, especially if Trotz is behind the bench.
New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has had a short streak with his 21-year-old striker, as when mistakes are made, Trotz has had no trouble cutting down on his shifts. In a year where Wahlstrom should have become more of a focal point for the attack, he has played only 12:23 minutes per game. match.
That’s the same number of minutes Wahlstrom had on average in 2020-21.
Many people’s story about Wahlstrom is that he often makes mistakes with and without the puck, which negatively affects his and his lines’ offensive output. While that may have been the case Saturday night and at times during the season, Wahlstrom is not the turnover machine that many think he is.
This season, Wahlstrom has flipped the puck 17 times in 65 games. By comparison, Noah Dobson has flipped the puck 65 times and Mathew Barzal has flipped the puck 66 times.
Wahlstrom’s TOI is not comparable to the two players mentioned above, and although the ice age was similar, Wahlstrom is not a player who often has the puck on his stick. So take that state with a pinch of salt if you will, but it’s still worth mentioning.
Trotz spoke a few days ago about defender Noah Dobson, who learned from his mistakes, and look at him now. But not all players can just move on from mistakes at the speed that Dobson has.
“There are some guys, I think, like Dobson who learn from it (their mistakes) and are able to walk past it almost like a goalkeeper. If you close a goal in, you have to pass it.” Some guys linger a bit. I would say that Wahlstrom sometimes dwells more than he needs because he has many abilities. And I think he will be a pretty solid player. “
Trotz continued with his goalkeeper comparison:
“But players are like goalkeepers. Some guys can get past that, and some guys just need a little longer. Even though he’s been handsome, pretty decent, you know, through the year, ups and downs for an entire season, he thinks. I, he has not played a long season like this, maybe in his whole career, so there is a growth process. “
Trotz has often talked about that process. And as mentioned above, because of Wahlstrom’s talent, it overshadows the “need” for him to reach his ceiling immediately, what it takes for a player to get there.
“I know you love Wally. But you just have to be patient,” Trotz said. “I’m more patient than you.”
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