The Islanders’ largest, most recent spark is coming from its youngest player.
At just 20 years old, Oliver Wahlstrom is hitting his stride in the pros and running with the chance of getting consistent playing time on the Islanders’ third line alongside veteran center, Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
The right-winger is currently on a four-game point streak with two goals and three assists (five points) during that stretch. That included having a direct hand in both of the Islanders’ goals in a 2-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night with a power-play goal and assist.
“It’s been good for us,” Islanders veteran forward Josh Bailey said of Wahlstrom. “His confidence just continues to grow and he looks better and better. He has that big shot as we saw tonight and his playmaking… [allows us to] use that whole zone and it’s opened things up.”
The production is finally starting to come around after Wahlstrom could only muster a goal and assist over his first 10 NHL games. But he kept getting the nod from head coach Barry Trotz for his all-around play — which has come along far quicker than expected for a prospect that made his name in the pro hockey ranks behind a wicked wrist shot and plus scoring ability.
“It’s been awesome, every time I see my name in the lineup… it’s really eye-opening and I really take that to heart,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to be in that lineup with these guys.”
“There’s a special skill set that he does have but for him to be able to utilize it, he had to get fitter, a little leaner, get skating,” Trotz added. “Sometimes as a shooter, you want to get open and shoot. But there are other areas.”
And Wahlstrom answered the call.
“It’s just a mindset,” he said. “I learned quickly that you have to enjoy those small details in your game and not focus on the outcomes, the goals the points.”
One would be hard-pressed to find a better possible linemate to pair Wahlstrom with than Pageau. The 28-year-old center has been the perfect fit in Trotz’s system since being acquired from the Ottawa Senators one year ago — displaying the versatility to be a goal-scoring threat, a lower-line grinder that is effective on both ends of the ice, an effective special teams contributor on both offense and defense, and the proper mindset to get himself into playmaking areas when he’s not on the puck.
For Pageau, who has cycled through a litany of linemates this season, there is a clear appreciation for an extended run with the youngster.
“His attitude is top-notch on and off the ice,” Pageau said of Wahlstrom. “He’s doing the right things and paying attention to all the details and that’s how you get better… He’s doing everything possible to be apart of this team.”
The appreciation is mutual.
“My guy. He’s just awesome,” Wahlstrom said of his linemate. “He’s a guy I really look up to and I love being around him.”
Wahlstrom looks to extend his point streak to five games on Tuesday night in New Jersey against the Devils while the Islanders could move into a tie for first place in the Eastern Division with a win.