Depending on who's observing, David Ullstrom is either getting a raw deal from Islanders coaches, has something to learn about defense and/or the Islanders system, or a little of all of the above mixed with the worst luck of all: injuries.
At age 24, this will be Ullström's last year on our Top 25 Islanders Under 25 ballot. He's an RFA this summer due a qualifying offer from the Isles to retain his rights. His window of opportunity isn't exactly closing, but there is plenty of competition around the bend.
At the NHL level, each of Ullström's last two seasons hit an injury derailment right when things seemed to be getting on track: In 2011-12, it was the concussion on a fluke hit in the offensive zone. In 2012-13, he pulled up lame down the stretch with a groin tweak.
Ullström missed half of March and all of April with the injury, but he made it back in time for the coaching staff to use him in half of the six playoff games against the Penguins. (Alas, he played just over five minutes in each of the final two appearances in a fourth-line role.)
This combined with his early season healthy scratches -- sometimes after pretty clear blown assignments on goals -- makes us wonder where he can fit long term with the Islanders. But for now, he's a still-young forward on the cusp of regular NHL duty, one who's put up around .75 points per game in the AHL the past two seasons and thus should be able to chip in at the NHL level.
For my part, I was one who put him behind Johan Sundstrom, even though Sundström hasn't played a single NHL game. This is the line in our 25U25 where I rate potential over what looks like a guy who is nearing his ceiling as he approaches the point where he ages off the list.
Here is how our 25U25 panel saw him in Spring 2013. There is division in our ranks:
David, friend of Swedes:
He still has a chance to become a productive NHLer. To wit: Frans Nielsen didn't become a full time NHLer until his age 25 season in 2008-2009. In fact Ullstrom has more NHL experience and North American experience than Frans did entering his age 24 season, the majority of which he spent in Bridgeport. I know Ullstrom bashing has become a popular past time but be patient, he could turn into a very nice NHLer anchoring a 3rd line as a shut down defensive winger and penalty killer.
Mike o' FIGs:
Hopefully he'll fight his way out of Cappy's doghouse. He should be a decent middle-lines player.
Chris, registered hater by default:
I hate David Ullstrom apparently. He hasn't shown the consistency yet you'd like out of an NHL player (but who am I to talk about consistency, I'm Blake Comeau's biggest fan). He showed an increased willingness to get physical during the playoffs. If he can consistently bring that along with his offensive abilities, I promise I will only dislike him.
As always with our 25U25 lists, these are for checking the pulse on the Islanders' youngest assets (a group that seems to be getting more promising each year), and for debate among our commentariat. Ullström is starting to compile some data -- and some contrasting impressions -- so we trust you'll have something to say on where he fits.
25U25 Spring 2013 Countdown (vote breakdown in each)
15: d Calvin de Haan
16: F Anders Lee