As Oliver Wahlstrom descended through the ranks of amateur hockey to the collegiate level, and ultimately to his selection by the Islanders in 2018, his M.O. was always a strong offensive game headlined by a lethal, quick-released wrist shot.
So it may come as a surprise to some that Saturday night saw the 22-year-old drop the gloves and record his second fight in the last three games after he was jumped by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman and agitator, Tony DeAngelo.
Not only did Wahlstrom take part in the fight, but he also rag-dolled DeAngelo, who needlessly pulled him out of a scrum created when Flyers forward Nicholas Deslauriers took exception to a hard check delivered by Romanov.
Oliver Wahlstrom tells Tony DeAngelo when he can get up. pic.twitter.com/I8J8D89TyH
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 27, 2022
“I wasn’t even expecting it,” Wahlstrom said following his team’s 5-2 victory. “I saw [defenseman Alex Romanov] go down and everyone skated over to see if he was good. I turned around and gloves were in the air. I just had to protect myself. That’s part of the game.”
While fighting in hockey has often toed the line of controversy as the game continues to progress into more a quicker, skilled game, it’s still something that even the younger generation — like Wahlstrom — is making an effort to become a bit more fluent in.
He spent the summer training mixed martial arts (MMA) with Islanders veteran fourth-liner Matt Martin and defenseman Ryan Pulock, first letting it fly on Nov. 21 against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he caught a piece of star forward Auston Matthews — coaxing the ire of Rasmus Sandin, who is one of Wahlstrom’s good friends.
“I kind of challenged myself to be uncomfortable this summer,” Wahlstrom said. “It’s a good little technique to have. I’m a big guy and sometimes in my game I throw a big hit here and there so you have to expect someone to come after you. I just have to use it to my ability.”
Wahlstrom’s 29 hits rank seventh among Islanders forwards this season, but he ranks third among all skaters on the team with 28 penalty minutes; one way to get under an opponent’s skin. So it’s never a bad thing to know how to defend yourself.
“It’s good on Wally,” forward Brock Nelson added. “He worked hard to put that in his repertoire… It’s something he takes pride in and he was able to show it off.”
Whether or not there will be hard feelings remains to be seen between Wahlstrom and DeAngelo or the Islanders and Flyers but we’ll find out soon enough. The two teams play each other again on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“No idea [if this will carry over],” Wahlstrom said. “Both teams are going for two points. Yeah, it’s going to be a physical game but at the same time, it’s a hockey game. If something happens, something happens.”