EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Oliver Wahlstrom joked that his summer began back in December when he went down with a season-ending knee injury after getting tangled up with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
“I’m super excited to skate,” Wahlstrom, who is still on the recovery trail, said during his exit interview. “It’s going to be awesome. I’m 22 years old and I already put on a bunch of muscle and I’m super excited to get going with the boys again next season.”
The young winger, who expects to be ready to go for training camp in September, appears to be leaning into the concept of developing into more of — as he called it — a “power forward,” rather than resting on the potential laurels of his plus-shot presenting an easier path of becoming more of an offensive sniper.
“I’m a big guy and I think I’m going to put a little bit more muscle on this summer,” Wahlstrom, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 204 lbs. said. “I think that’s where my game needs to trend. Obviously, I have the skill and that skill is still there, but I have a lot of fun when I create a little havoc. I think I stay in games more when I’m like that.
“I think the next step in my game is to be a hard-nosed power forward that puts the puck in the net and keep playing that style.”
That decision comes even if it was that uptick in physical play that led to that injury following a walloping hit on Joseph.
“I read that I could get a good hit on him and try to separate him from the puck,” Wahlstrom said. “Right when I hit I guess he was kind of protecting the puck and right when I launched up my knee got stuck under his hip, and then something twisted and the rest is history.”
Wahlstrom was projecting toward a career year with seven goals in 35 games before his injury, which included a pair of fights — something he admitted he’s willing to do in the future but ultimately an aspect of the game he’s not “the type of guy to go looking for it.” But for a team in need of front-line scoring depth, a next step is needed given the intangibles that come with his wicked wrist shot.
“For me it’s, just staying even keel,” Whalstrom said. “This injury, I look at it as a blessing.”