There’s a old saying in the sport of hockey: “the future has arrived”. Some say it’s a phrase that can be overrun until that reality smacks you straight in the face. Time and time again, the word future and the Islanders have become one in the same as the years have gone by. But this season, that future has taken a clear hold of where the franchise is hoping to go and looking to stay for the foreseeable future.
The Isles, and their fans for that matter, are seeing a dynamic in this COVID-induced year they haven’t witnessed in a long time — prospects living up or exceeding expectations. Three names in particular, Oliver Wahlstrom, Ilya Sorokin and Noah Dobson, have made this “youth movement” an enjoyable one for everyone to watch.
Even as Dobson deals with being in COVID protocol — yesterday marked his tenth day on the league’s list — he was having a solid sophomore campaign and was near the top in stats for defensemen on the club.
As for Wahlstrom and Sorokin, both of them have played a significant role in the team’s success and have people around the league buzzing.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) March 23, 2021
The 20-year-old Wahlstrom has proven to be the sniper the organization has been clamoring for for what seems like decades. He’s already tallied eight goals, each more impressive to the last, and has 15 points overall in just 26 games. Mind you he’s doing this as a bottom-six forward — he’s playing on the third line centered by J.G. Pageau — which makes what’s he’s been doing extremely admirable. Wahlstrom’s teammate Sorokin, albeit five years older, as I wrote yesterday is showing he’s as advertised from how spectacular he was during his dominating tenure in the his homeland in the KHL.
“His confidence is growing and you see that in net,” Casey Cizikas said about Sorokin a few weeks back. “His work ethic in practice is above and beyond. He’s working and he’s getting better at his game. You’re seeing that out there. He’s made some really big saves for us at some key times.”
Sorokin has helped provide the Isles with essentially the best goaltending duo in the NHL along with veteran Semyon Varlamov. Not only that, he’s provided a glimpse of why he could be an elite goaltender in the NHL for years to come.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 1, 2021
This kind of impact from their youth has come before for the Isles, but not the way these three individuals have done it all at the same time. There was Mathew Barzal is 2017-18 when he was running roughshod over the league which ended in him as the Calder Trophy winner. There was also Josh Ho-Sang’s rise at the end of the 2016-17 season. Before that you have to go all the way back to the early 2000s when the franchise saw the fruits of labor come with Rick DiPietro and Trent Hunter.
So as you can tell, seeing three and possibly more youngsters — if Kieffer Bellows can find a role back in the lineup — making an impact all at the same time doesn’t happen often with this organization.
That’s changed this season and the Isles have become a better team for it.
Islanders head coach made it a point that having young guys on the team this year has added an extra ingredient. The team is having fun. Look no further than Wahlstrom, who during Monday night’s win in Philadelphia was caught on camera singing to the song “Here Comes the Boom!” playing over the PA.
wally what are u singing pic.twitter.com/vhCFuzce4D
— mia (@8dobson) March 23, 2021
We all know Mathew Barzal is a wizard with the puck on his stick, but to have the amount of dekes he has totaled through 33 games is almost uncanny.
Per Sportsnet last night, Barzal has tried a league-leading 179 open-ice moves when the game is played at 5-on-5.
Based on that stat, you wonder why he makes defenders look like traffic cones most of the time.