The puck glanced off the side of Simon Holmstrom’s body and into the net. That, of course, is not noted on the scoresheet, only that the former first-rounder had a goal in the Islanders’ 2-1 preseason win over the Flyers on Wednesday night at UBS Arena.
Holmstrom played his first 50 NHL games last season for the Islanders with six goals and three assists while getting more notice for his defense. More offensive production is what will secure him a long-term, full-time role.
“This offseason I’ve been doing a lot of homework,” said Holmstrom, who skated with top-liners Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal while taking two shots in 17:05. “Practicing those skills. I know I have it in me. I just want to get it out there.”
Holmstrom’s body-deflected goal after defenseman Travis Mitchell’s initial shot was first tipped by Barzal gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 12:38 of the first period. Holmstrom also had the secondary assist on ex-Ranger fourth-liner Julien Gauthier’s power-play blast from the left at 14:00 of the second period.
Holmstrom, the 19th overall pick in 2019, spent plenty of time last season with third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau. But coach Lane Lambert is holding open auditions to play on Horvat and Barzal’s left wing.
“I thought he played good,” Lambert said. “He’s a very dependable guy. There’s certainly an advantage there for him being in that spot. I don’t know if it’s necessarily looking [for offense], but he’s capitalizing more.”
“Sometimes we forget how young he is because he’s so mature and already so advanced on both sides of the puck and his intelligence for the game is very high,” Matt Martin said of the 22-year-old Holmstrom. “He would probably want to take that next step offensively and I think that’s a big part of his game but the defensive aspect of it is what got him here as quickly as he did.”
Gauthier could be competing with Holmstrom for a spot among the top 12 forwards and he managed two shots in 14:20 skating with Casey Cizikas and Ruslan Iskhakov.
“We all feel a little rusty,” Gauthier said. “But, overall, it was great for me. I played well. I finished my checks. It’s fun to get an opportunity on the power play and show I can shoot the puck.”
Notes & quotes: Oliver Wahlstrom logged 17:20 and had two attempts blocked in his first game since injuring his knee on Dec. 27. “There’s no hesitation at all,” said Wahlstrom, who was also positioned both behind the net and as a net-front presence on the top power-play unit. “I’m 100% confident because I put the work in for the nine months . . . ” Ilya Sorokin stopped all 12 shots he faced in 30:33 in his first preseason action. Ken Appleby then made 17 saves . . . Defense prospect Isaiah George did not participate in Wednesday morning’s team scrimmage after absorbing a heavy hit from the Rangers’ Matt Rempe on Tuesday night, though he finished that game. Lambert cited maintenance and said George was day to day.