Oliver Wahlstrom is just 21 years old, which might be hard to believe at times when watching him perform within the strict rigidity that comes within the New York Islanders system.
But the young winger not only continues to prove that a disappointing training camp was just a fluke but he also can be the offensive threat the organization perceived him to be while sticking to the team’s defense-first system.
Wahlstrom posted two goals in the Islanders’ 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night to get into the win column this season. He has three goals in his last two games, pairing a well-known lethal shot with a less-talked-about off-puck game that’s sparking his hot start.
Well, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz will talk about it.
“When Wally gets open, he can shoot it as good as any young player in the league. I think positionally, he was in a real good position,” Trotz said. “He made good decisions at the blue line offensively and he was moving his feet. When Wally’s having success, he’s moving his feet, he’s able to get open, create some loose pucks so he can get shots off.”
Wahlstrom had eight shots in Tuesday’s win, exhibiting an aggressive forecheck that set up his first goal of the night when he picked off a Henrik Borgstrom pass at the Blackhawks blue line, deked a defender, and snapped a wrister through Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead 48 seconds into the third period.
“I’m just working on playing on top of the puck,” Wahlstrom said. “That’s a big part of what we do as a team. I just kind of put my head down and work hard away from the goal. Once you keep working, it’ll come.”
Eight minutes later, he poached his second after moving into open space on the left goal line after his shot was blocked and one-timed a perfect pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau past an out-of-position Fleury.
“Every time he had the puck, he seemed to get a shot on net,” Trotz said. “That’s what happens when he moves his feet and I thought he was a real good complement to his line.”
The find further indicated the building rapport between Pageau and Wahlstrom on the Islanders’ third line, and the game plan seems easy for the veteran centerman.
“I think every line is building their chemistry. Same with me Wally and [Zach] Parise. Our chemistry is getting better and better,” Pageau said. “When you have a shooter like this on your line, you definitely try to use his shot. He’s got an outstanding shot so I’m just trying to give him the puck and let him release it.”
That’s not too convoluted of a message, which is perfect for the continued development of the promising scorer.
“Just play up and down my wing and keep the game simple and get my shot off,” Wahlstrom said. “I’m playing with really good players in [Pageau] and [Parise]. So just learn from them and build off from that.”