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Islanders’ Barry Trotz looking for more consistent Oliver Wahlstrom

Oliver Wahlstrom Islanders
Oliver Wahlstrom
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Islanders head coach Barry Trotz isn’t denying the importance of Oliver Wahlstrom — whether it’s for the team’s chances to make a playoff push this season or in the future. 

He just needs to see a more dependable version of the young winger. 

Wahlstrom was benched for the Islanders’ 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday — a disappointing end to an emotional day that began with the honoring of franchise legend Clark Gillies, who passed away on Friday. 

[ALSO READ: Clark Gillies, Islanders legend and hall of famer, dies at 67]

The writing was on the wall that Friday night during New York’s 4-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes when — following a particularly bad turnover in the Islanders zone late in the second period — Wahlstrom was benched for the entire third period. He played just eight minutes in the win.

Kieffer Bellows stepped into the lineup for the 21-year-old, whose presence was missed for a team forced to play catch-up for most of the evening.

“Just consistency,” Trotz said when asked what he needs to see from Wahlstrom. “Wally is a big piece of what we do and a big piece of our future. But the consistency has been all over the map for me and that’s where I’m trying to reel it in a little bit with him.

“Being a really good pro — and I think Wally is going to be a really good pro — is the consistency level every night and I just thought he wasn’t where he should be the other night and I gave the chance to somebody else.”

Wahlstrom continues to be kept on a short leash by Trotz despite the young sniper potentially being the best option to line up alongside Mathew Barzal on the Islanders’ first line. 

During Kyle Palmieri’s absence (lower-body injury), the right-wing spot on the first line has been a revolving door. Over the last four games, Trotz has used five different options to line up alongside Barzal and captain Anders Lee. 

Wahlstrom, though, hasn’t been an option; and the head coach’s philosophy on why further shed light on Wahlstrom’s benching.

“If you’re playing with [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau, it’s probably pretty easy to pay with him because he’s predictable,” Trotz said back in December. “Playing with Barzal is not as predictable. That’s where moving a guy like Wahlstrom up sometimes can hinder him a little bit because you’re playing with a little bit of a wild card.

“He’s going to continue to evolve his game by learning to play with different sets of guys so that he’s not just ‘I’m a shooter, get me a puck and I’m going to score. There’s a lot more to that game than that one moment. He feels he’s a goal scorer and when he’s not scoring, that’s all he can think about.” 

Hence why a bad turnover or two resulted in Wahlstrom, who hasn’t scored in his last 10 games, getting scratched on Saturday.

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