It didn’t take a psychiatrist to see that Islanders ahead Oliver Wahlstrom was pissed off towards the tip of final season.
The 22-year-old, who had gave the impression to be on the right track for a breakout through the first half of the season, sputtered to the end line, with three factors in his ultimate 26 video games. Although he and then-head coach Barry Trotz each downplayed the perceived points between them, it was clear the 2 may have gotten alongside higher.
That units up this season as a type of make-or-break stage for the previous first-round choose. Wahlstrom is within the final yr of his entry-level deal and attending to play underneath a brand new head coach, Lane Lambert, who early on has preached aggression. On Friday behind the Islanders’ locker room, Wahlstrom spoke of relieving himself of the burdens of his personal expectations.
“I believe I simply bought too fearful concerning the exterior issues slightly than give attention to the interior issues,” he instructed The Publish. “Issues I can do. This summer season, I’ve simply been specializing in staying calm and having fun with it. There’s no expectations aside from profitable, and profitable a Stanley Cup. I’m not making an attempt to place any expectations on myself and go on the market and have enjoyable.”
Wahlstrom, a Maine native, stayed on Lengthy Island over the summer season. He took recommendation from basic supervisor Lou Lamoriello to maintain issues easy and work laborious, and it’s clear he’s conscious of his age.
“I’m rising and growing,” he stated. “I really feel actually good coming into this camp, with the ability to take that subsequent step and mature my sport.”
Together with teammate Matt Martin, Wahlstrom labored out at an MMA health club a couple of instances every week, getting an training in a sport that may help in conditioning and if the gloves come off. By the tip of the summer season, Ryan Pulock was becoming a member of them as nicely.
“I believe for a man like Oliver, who sort of has a bodily edge to his sport, every now and then, you get underneath folks’s pores and skin and folks may come after him,” Martin instructed The Publish. “It’s not a nasty factor to have a bit of bit of information and I assume be a bit of snug in that sort of state of affairs.”
Wahlstrom has fought 5 instances in his profession, per HockeyFights.com, together with twice final yr towards the now-retired P.Ok. Subban and the Crimson Wings’ Adam Erne.
“We’re in search of him to take the subsequent step as nicely,” Lambert stated. “So what’s that? It’s proceed to progress. He’s a goal-scorer, he can shoot the puck, however what he’s achieved in the summertime away from the rink and now within the first couple weeks of coaching camp, he’s matured. And he appears to be like like a man who’s actually able to struggle for a job.”
Regardless of the reward, that underscores the truth that, of all of the returning forwards from the highest 12 from final season, Wahlstrom’s place is likely to be probably the most precarious. Kieffer Bellows has a brand new contract and can proceed to problem for enjoying time. Simon Holmstrom, the Islanders’ 2019 first-round choose, has skated with Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise through the first two days of camp and could possibly be a darkish horse to take any individual’s spot.
That any individual could possibly be Wahlstrom, who continues to be exempt from waivers if despatched to AHL Bridgeport. That could be a good distance from occurring — Wahlstrom has been working with Anders Lee and Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a line that can be intriguing if Lambert rolls with it within the preseason — however the brand new coach not less than doesn’t appear to be appearing as if Wahlstrom is assured something.
The ceiling is nonetheless excessive. Wahlstrom has a deadly shot and checked out instances final season as if he may threaten to attain 30 objectives, a quantity he ultimately fell well short of reaching.
“I believe he’s gonna develop as a participant similar to everybody else does,” Martin stated. “Get smarter and smarter as his profession goes on. He additionally wants to achieve extra confidence as nicely. Confidence is clearly the whole lot.
“Clearly for us, him having an enormous breakout yr can be an excellent factor.”
Wahlstrom may first want to point out that his summer season work has paid dividends.