Name: Oliver Wahlstrom
Team: U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
Stats: 22 goals, 23 assists, 45 points
Position: Center / Right Wing
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 7th (North American Skaters)
NHL Comparable Player: Daniel Sedin / Mike Hoffman
Let’s stop being polite, and start being real: Oliver Wahlstrom will not be there at No. 13 when Dallas is at the podium. If he is, the Dallas Stars will be one of several teams out to lunch letting their pet turtles do the selection.
Nonetheless, if it could happen to Matthew Barzal, I suppose it could happen to anyone.
With a minor rant out the way, Wahlstrom finally answers the age old question: how will a nine-year-old viral sensation do once they’re old enough to play in the NHL?
Wahlstrom is one of the premiere forwards in this year’s draft set to answer this question in the affirmative. His points per game for the best USHL season among U18 skaters is behind only Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel, but above Clayton Keller and Kyle Connor. On the other hand, he has a higher shot-per-game rate than any of the above, which puts him highest among all draft eligible players this year.
While he’s not a power forward in the traditional sense, he has a lot of power forward skill sets. With an excellent first step and above average vision, he’s able to control the puck in all three zones (even on special teams where he’s a critical part of the power play and the penalty kill).
By his own admission, he’s a big fan of the Sedin twins, which is a visible part of his game, creating offense with wit, puck protection, and IQ.
Steve Kournianos highlighted his decision-making on Twitter back in November:
#U18: Check out this subtle but important display of decision making by RW Oliver Wahlstrom (#18 Blue), who opts to reset after taking a pass inside the right circle -- a spot he loves to shoot from. My guess is most players in that situation wouldve shot it or dumped it down low pic.twitter.com/HYpsqpfbN7— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) November 11, 2017
It’s important to be able to beat your man in the corners, on the forecheck, or in your own zone. But if you’re a forward, the most important person to beat is the goalie. Wahlstrom is good at beating goalies. Part of what makes him such a great player is that his wrists operate like their own Swiss Army knife; like something built out of that Boston Dynamics lab. He’s able to reset, and shift his hands effortlessly to pull the puck back, release, or feint, and score from his heels or his toes. He doesn’t just have a heavy release — that can turn shots into rebounds or goals from a distance — but a quick one too.
In addition, his play has been trending up for some time. At the World Juniors, he was second only to next year’s first overall draft gem (Jack Hughes) in Team USA scoring. He sounds like a goal scoring machine. What’s the catch? Why is he slated to go in the 5-10 range?
First and foremost, this draft is filled to the brim with quality defensemen. Not only are a lot of teams above Dallas in need of a defenseman, but the defensemen are ranked in front of where Dallas is picking. Second, Wahlstrom is in that William Nylander/Nikolaj Ehlers tier — their skills are above their rank, but there’s always that handful of safe, high floor prospects beyond the tier one group (in this case, Dahlin, Svechnikov, and Zadina) that teams just feel like they can’t pass.
So how could Dallas position themselves to draft Wahlstrom?
Move up to No. 8 where Chicago’s picking and make it worth their while (especially for a team that’s still looking to contend). Arizona, Detroit, and Vancouver are looking for defensive help. You can potentially include Ottawa in there too if they feel uncertain about Karlsson’s contract. Even if one of them goes forward, they’ll probably pick Brady Tkachuk (especially considering his brother’s success in Calgary) over Wahlstrom. There’s risk there, and nothing is certain. But they’d be in a good position to take Wahlstrom.
Whoever takes him is getting a very dynamic goal scorer.