The U.S. National Hockey program has been pumping out a ton of elite talent the last few years. From Jack Eichel to Zach Werenski, they have been pretty consistent in developing players who go high in the draft and make an impact in the NHL.
Oliver Wahlstrom is going to be one of those players. Expected to go as high as top-5 by some projections, Wahlstrom is one of the biggest scoring threats in this draft.
NHL CS RANKING
Projected to go 7th overall among North American skaters.
Hailing from Yarmouth, Maine, Wahlstrom has always been better than his peers on the ice (just look at those Bantam numbers). When he joined the U.S. National Team, they played him on both the U17 and U18 squad in the same season and Wahlstrom actually had a better point-per-game average in the higher age bracket.
He really made his mark when he played in international tournaments as he scored five points in seven games as part of the U18 World Junior Championship gold medal winning squad in 2016-17 and nine points in seven games as part of the silver medal winning squad the following year.
His most impressive outing was just this last season as part of the U.S. National U18 Team. He dummied the competition putting up 48 goals and 94 points in a mere 62 games. That is unstoppable and a sure sign that he’s ready for the next level of professional hockey.
He’s currently committed to Boston College next season, but he may be NHL-ready depending on which team takes him in the draft.
THE EYE TEST
Wahlstrom is a great skater and has a real nose for the net. He is a pure sniper and is always able to create open ice where there appears to be none. He’s quick on the transition, especially through the neutral zone, and is able to change his speed so smoothly that he throws the opposing team’s defense off.
Speaking of defense, every player has their crutch. This is the part of Wahlstrom’s game that needs some work. He needs to be more aggressive in his own end, forcing turnovers instead of waiting for them to happen. He could make more use of his 205 lb., 6’1” frame by being more physical on the back check.
This is the case with a lot of players at this stage. Up until now, they’ve been so good that they haven’t had to play defense because nobody could catch them. It’s a teachable trait and something Wahlstrom will need to improve on in the NHL.
IS HE A MOTOR CITY MATCH?
If Wahlstrom falls to six, the Wings are going to have quite the dilemma. Do they take this highly touted centre with elite scoring potential? Or do they take whichever of the top four defensemen are still on the board?
Wahlstrom is absolutely a fit for Detroit. He can slide in on Dylan Larkin’s wing and Larks can feed him passes all game. Like I said, he’s got the potential to be an elite goal scorer. They can also play him at centre and have two big bodies in him and Anthony Mantha charging down the ice. Wahlstrom can create the space and Mantha can find the net.
This kind of flexibility is nice to have in a player and he would immediately become a key part of Detroit’s rebuild.
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