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The U.S. National Team Development Program has become one of the top hockey factories in the world. There is a ton of young and talented prospects coming through the program every year. It is no different this season, and one of the best players in the program is Oliver Wahlstrom. He has been a big-time scorer, putting up 40 goals and 42 assists for 82 points in 53 games this season. Last season he scored four goals and five points in seven games in helping the US to win a gold medal at the Under 18s. He hopes to help the American team defend that title in a couple of weeks.
Wahlstrom is committed to play NCAA hockey for Harvard next season. If he changes his mind and goes the CHL route, his rights are owned by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL.
In an interesting note, he was a viral sensation with a pair of goals scored as a nine and ten-year-old making a splash in the hockey community.
Oliver Wahlstrom Scouting Report
Center/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born June 13th, 2000 — Quincy, Massachusetts
Height 6’1″ — Weight 205 lbs [185 cm / 93 kg]
Wahlstrom is a tremendous skater. He has a great first step, and his acceleration is lightning quick. Sometimes he is coasting in the offensive zone, and quickly changes speeds, catching his defender off guard and finding open ice. His agility and edgework is also very good, allowing him to elude defenders both with and without the puck. His balance and lower body strength allow him to win battles on the boards and fight through checks at the junior level, but can improve as he continues to get stronger.
One of the best stick handlers in the draft, Wahlstrom has an impressive array of moves. He isn’t afraid to use them in traffic either. While he won’t initiate contact, he does take hits to make offensive plays. He is a very good playmaker. Wahlstrom can extend plays and wait for a teammate to get open. Once they do, he can make a pass through the tightest of openings. He also has a very good wrist shot and outstanding release. However, it is the improvements in his shot that have taken Wahlstrom’s game up a notch.
While his shot was already at a high level, it seems it is even better this year, and Wahlstrom is using it more. He is a pure sniper, and with this aspect of his game improving he is a better and more dangerous player. Wahlstrom is taking a ton of shots, from high danger areas, and putting the puck in the back of the net. He has an outstanding snapshot, wrist shot and slap shot. His release is very quick and can fool goaltenders. He also scores goals in front of the net with good tip-in skills and the quickness to bang in rebounds.
Wahlstrom’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. He sometimes seems to puck watch, waiting for a turnover and a chance to go on the attack again. He needs to be more engaged in his own zone, especially if he wants to play in the middle again. Getting involved in more physical battles, and backchecking with more intensity are areas to work on.
Projection and Comparison
Wahlstrom is a versatile player. In 2016-17 he spent most of the season on the Under-17 team playing centre. On the Under-18 team, he has been on the right wing, playing on the first line with possible 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes. After being drafted, it will be up to his new team to decide where to develop him. I believe that his future is as a right-wing sniper, but it is not impossible to see a team try to move him to centre. His game is reminiscent of Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens. However, this is a style comparison and not one based on talent or skill level.
The following is a compilation of some of the many highlight packages of Wahlstrom that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Embed from Getty Images
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA – SEPTEMBER 30: Oliver Wahlstrom #18 skates with the puck in the third period during the game against the Omaha Lancers on Day 3 of the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on September 30, 2017 in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)