The New York Islanders are one of the best teams in the NHL, but they struggle to find consistent secondary scoring. While being the fifth-best team in the league in goals allowed per game, the Islanders rank only 26th in goals for. Lou Lamoriello has made one trade since becoming the Islanders president/general manager in 2018, favoring in-house options to fix holes in the lineup. Right now, only two lines are regularly producing, and it’s clear that the Isles need more scorers to take that next step from contention to contenders.
But what are their options?
Oliver Wahlstrom is the sexiest choice to improve the Islanders’ offense. As the 11th-overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, he was touted as a natural goal-scorer. He already played nine games up on Long Island this season when Jordan Eberle was out with an injury. Although getting some decent ice time, he did not register a point. With the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, he has 10 points in 22 games while playing on the top line. He was also impressive with Team USA at this year’s World Junior Championships, even though his goal-scoring numbers were not as expected, with one goal in five games.
Wahlstrom could be a perfect pairing to go alongside Mathew Barzal; Barzal’s playmaking styles could complement Wahlstrom’s finishing abilities. Lamoriello may not opt for Wahlstrom as his defensive game has not fully developed, and he could be too raw to play postseason hockey. Besides, playing him in one more game will use up the first year of his entry-level contract, virtually wasting his rookie year.
Kieffer Bellows seemed like he would never see an NHL rink. However, with 11 goals in his last 15 AHL games, his stock has skyrocketed, even being named the AHL Player of the Month.
Bellows was drafted as a power forward out of the US National Team Development Program, and his skills are now on display in Bridgeport. He’s playing with confidence, and if the Islanders want someone with a hot stick, Bellows is their guy.
The remaining two options for the Islanders that make some sense are Andrew Ladd and Josh Ho-Sang. Ladd will never be the player that he was with the Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, or even in his first season with the Islanders. However, Ladd’s numbers have been solid in the AHL, averaging a little under 0.50 points per game. Ladd’s season was cut short in 2018-19 after tearing his ACL and he has never really made it back to the Island. Before the injury, Ladd was having his best season in terms of points per game as an Islander, and was on pace for 35 points.
Ho-Sang is another alternative to be called up due to his offensive play. He has never been a defensive player, but he could be an exceptional playmaker. He requested a trade after not making the Islanders’ roster out of training camp, and Lamoriello was unable to find a trade partner for him. It’s likely that Ho-Sang would have already been called up this season due to injuries at the beginning, but was unavailable because of his trade request. Since returning to Bridgeport, he has three points in five games. He’s probably the least likely to be brought up to help fix the offensive struggles, but he would make the most significant impact.
Who Should it Be?
After going through the options for the Islanders in their farm system, Wahlstrom is the best choice available. He was impressive during his short stay on Long Island and would benefit from learning from one of the best coaching staffs in the league. He has the highest ceiling when compared to Bellows, Ladd, and Ho-Sang. It could be a swing-and-a-miss, but Wahlstrom is the best in-house possibility to improve the Islanders’ attack.