The U.S. National Team development program has long been a breeding ground for elite talent and with recent NHL graduates like Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Clayton Keller, and Matthew Tkachuk lighting up the NHL and presumptive 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes waiting in the wings, it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Oliver Wahlstrom is another product of the USNTDP who’s quickly proving he belongs in the conversation with other recent graduates who have gone on to bigger and better things. He’s one of the best and most dynamic forwards the 2018 class has to offer, and is likely it’s best goal-scorer, which is good enough to land him in the fifth spot in our yearly draft rankings.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.26 / June 13, 2000
- Birthplace: Quincy, MA, USA
- Frame: 6’1″ / 207 lbs
- Position: C/RW
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL)
- Accomplishments/Awards: U18 WJC All-Star Team, U18 WJC Silver Medal
|GP||G||A||P||SEAL||INV%||5v5 Pr INV%||5v5 eP160||Sh/Gp||Sh%||GF%||GF%rel||GD60rel||XLS%||XPR||xVAL|
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
Those of you that are extremely online or have a long memory may recognize Wahlstrom as the 9-year-old hockey phenom that scored this insane lacrosse goal back in 2009:
It was a viral sensation that put Wahlstrom on the hockey world’s radar, but also put a target on his back in minor hockey. From a young age, Wahlstrom was the focus of relentless pressure on the ice, often from much older kids. It would eventually help turn the young forward into a more well-rounded and mature player, along with father Joakim’s many tests for his son; which included making him take regular shifts at defense and insisting he pack his own hockey bag even as a young child.
It’s stories like these, and Wahlstrom’s humble and hungry attitude in interviews that have convinced me he’s more than capable of ironing out the defensive kinks in his game. And that’s really the only area that needs work. Offensively, he’s the whole package.
Wahlstrom’s shot is absolutely deadly. He has everything you want in a goal-scorer: power, accuracy, vision, and release, all of which are arguably the best on this class. Whether it was in international play, the USHL, or against college teams, Wahlstrom was able to fire off heavy and accurate shots often before goalies could even get set. While that shot gives him the ability to score from areas others wouldn’t be able to, he’s also not afraid to drive to the net. His two-step quickness and healthy 6-foot-one, 207-pound frame make him extremely hard to contain in high-danger areas. He also possesses high-end hockey sense. There are a lot of players that can rip the puck, but Wahlstrom sees the ice well enough that he can find the soft areas in defensive zone coverage. The way he can slip into prime areas unnoticed and fire off a one-timer or a wrist shot with laser-like accuracy reminds me a bit of Canucks wunderkind Brock Boeser… the difference being that Wahlstrom can play centre, and his skating and shot are more advanced than Boeser’s were at his age. He’s also an underrated playmaker who can dish cross-ice passes to his teammates under pressure and through traffic.
And if that wasn’t enough, he also shines by just about every statistical measure you could imagine. His 26-game sample in the USHL yielded the second-best scoring, era, age, and league (SEAL) among this draft’s crop behind only Andrei Svechnikov. When viewed through the lens of the prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), Wahlstrom stands out as one of the draft’s only sure-fire home runs, finishing first among eligible prospects in expected production with 70.5 points per season, and an expected likelihood of success of 100%. In spite of concerns about Wahlstrom’s two-way commitment, he also finished with GF% well north of 70%.
Wahlstrom’s excellent pGPS data is largely due to the fact that his season yielded only one match: Thomas Vanek. Even then, Vanek only barely reached the threshold of similarity, being both older and a less prolific scorer in his draft year.
To put it succinctly, the team that selects Wahlstrom will be getting one hell of a player, who even has a decent shot at turning out to be the best forward in the draft when we look back on it in the years to come.
|Consolidated||Average||Future Considerations||Hockey Prospect.com||ISS Hockey||McKeen’s||The Athletic||TSN Bob McKenzie||TSN Craig Button||The Hockey News||Sportsnet||ESPN||Dobber Prospects|
From Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects:
Owns the best release in the class. The goal-scoring forward doesn’t shy away from attacking dangerous scoring areas and boasts strong speed and quick feet. A volume-shooter who is deadly from the left circle on the power-play. Feasts on penalty killers. Terrific pure puck skills. Off to Boston College in the fall. This kid is going to score a boatload of goals in the NHL.