We are now a month into the suspension of the NHL season with no reprieve in sight; however, things are looking bright for the future of the Islanders as a number of young prospects are moving their way up to the “big club” very soon.
The development of prospect talent is key not only to survival in professional sports but indicative of how well each organization is managed.
Under the current tutelage of GM Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders have a legitimate shot at becoming heavyweights again in the Metropolitan Division and annual trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs seem to be in the cards for the Isles.
One of the top prospects who is starting to shine down “on the farm” in Bridgeport is right winger Oliver Wahlstrom. Wahlstrom is a 6’2″, 209 lb. product of Quincy, MA and was the youngest player to ever make his professional debut with the Sound Tigers on April 2, 2019.
The 19-year-old has already made a name for himself while playing for Team USA which won the gold medal in the U18 tournament in 2016 and later brought home the silver medal in the World Junior Championships in 2018. Wahlstrom played for his hometown Boston College during the 2018-19 season and posted 8 goals and 11 assists in 36 games.
While playing for Bridgeport this past season, Wahlstrom again posted strong numbers with the Sound Tigers as he scored 10 goals and had 22 assists in 45 games until the season was suspended. The Islanders expect Wahlstrom to bring a sense of physicality to his play with his size and could find himself competing for a line spot in the next training camp.
Size and physicality seem to be a common thread among the current crop of Islanders prospects as blueliner Samuel Bolduc is making his presence felt in the QMJHL-literally. The 6’4′, 219 lb. the defenseman is a large physical specimen who was drafted by the Islanders in the second round of the 2019 draft.
Working his way up through the Quebec junior ranks, Bolduc split his time this past season between Blainville-Boisbriand and Sherbrooke and in 61 games Bolduc put in a strong showing with 11 goals and 32 assists in 61 games.
Even more impressive was Bolduc’s showing after 12/28/19 when he was traded to Sherbrooke; in 29 games Bolduc scored 4 goals and 23 more assists to help his new team. Again, Bolduc’s size and his ability to score as a blueliner will greatly help him and the Islanders as he begins his move up the professional ranks and he could also find himself as a viable candidate to move up quickly to the NHL.
The third prospect in this triumvirate of large hockey prospects is Otto Koivula. Koivula is a 21-year-old left-winger from Nokia, Finland and his size could outright intimidate other NHL opponents. At 6’4″ and 219 lbs, Koivula should have no problems down the road in handling the long-term transition to the NHL. In fact, Koivula made his NHL debut this season just prior to the league suspension and was able to play in 12 games for the Islanders.
Koivula made his presence known on the Finnish U20 team and over the past two years has become a steady offensive playmaker for Bridgeport. During the 2018-19 season, Koivula was able to put in 21 goals and 25 assists in 69 games and also capped off this season with nine goals and 13 assists in 36 game appearances.
Koivula will no doubt be a factor in the next Islanders training camp and may be ready to make the full-time jump to the NHL this coming season.
Regardless of how the 2019-20 season outcome, the Islanders are moving forward with their youth movement to provide size and physicality to the roster.
Hopefully, soon we will all be able to see this youth movement in action wearing Isles sweaters and helping them make a Stanley Cup playoff run.
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