After an impressive offseason, New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom has not been the consistent goal scorer the team had hoped for out of the gate. But it is still early in the season, and the way first-year head coach Lane Lambert has handled Wahlstrom’s development has been night and day from how his predecessor Barry Trotz dealt with the New York Islanders’ young goal scorer.
In 2021-22, Oliver Wahlstrom found himself on the bench for elongated periods, as Trotz was quick to take him out of the rotation often. His struggles would be discussed in Trotz’s media availabilities as he seemed to send messages to Wahlstrom through us.
There were times when Wahlstrom found himself a scratch, and when he was reinserted into the lineup, one could see some nerves, especially when the puck was on his stick.
It was tough love, as Wahlstrom said in his final media availability of the season.
“You know, I need tough love sometimes. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business. I love the game, and I take information and try to use that in different parts of my game. So yeah, it was a good learning experience for sure,” Wahlstrom said back in April.
Listen, none of us are in the position to give opinions on whether Trotz was doing the right things regarding Wahlstrom’s development. If you asked Wahlstrom, he would tell you that he needed to learn the little things, the things that would allow him to play his part in the Trotz system.
But Lane Lambert has decided to take a different approach to Oliver Wahlstrom this season, and that’s about letting him learn through playing.
The perfect example of this came back in the New York Islanders 4-3 win over the New York Rangers last Tuesday. Wahlstrom started that game on the fourth line, as Lambert wanted to see him play more of a north-south game, something we saw Trotz do with Anthony Beauvillier after scratching him early in 2021-22.
Early in the first period, Wahlstrom turned the puck over in the offensive zone and clearly was frustrated with the mistake. Once he got back to the bench, he slammed the bench door shut, and it was not too soon after that he had Lambert over his shoulder.
Was he yelling at Wahlstrom for his actions?
No, it seemed like he was calming down his young forward, turning it into a teaching lesson.
Lane Lambert seemingly calming Oliver Wahlstrom down, chatting with him on the bench during the last stoppage #Isles pic.twitter.com/4jqHooOXsl
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) November 9, 2022
Following the game, Lambert spoke about that moment.
“Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a game of mistakes. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be any goals,” Lambert said. “So it’s important that if mistakes are made, players are able to refocus.”
“We had a good game that game, and I mean it is what it is,” Wahlstrom said in an interview with NYI Hockey Now. “I just got to put my head down and keep working.”
Last season, that mistake potentially disallowed Wahlstrom from being able to keep working, but rather glued to the bench.
This season, he is being given a chance to right his wrongs, learn and continue playing.
NYI Hockey Now followed up with Lambert on this past Friday, as we asked about his approach to Oliver Wahlstrom so far this season.
“They’re all human beings. And, you know, you have to work with them and work with each individual, so you just try and find different ways to help people,” Lambert said. “I think, and there’s no question that, like I said before, with any player, they’ll make mistakes. But are they learning from them? Can you see a difference in trying to correct the mistake they made previously?”
“I do believe that he’s making really good strides in that.”
More often than not, Oliver Wahlstrom has skated with Mathew Barzal, as Lane Lambert has shown a belief in those two. More on that coming Monday.
Oliver Wahlstrom has four goals and four assists in 15 games, with 30 shots, five takeaways, seven giveaways, and 12 PIM in 11:48 TOI.