Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2018 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Right wing Oliver Wahlstrom of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program never appeared overwhelmed as the youngest participant at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, in August.
Wahlstrom (6-foot-1, 198 pounds), who doesn't turn 18 until June 13, didn't take a back seat to anyone as one of the top power forwards eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft. Despite the fact he was cut by USA Hockey five days into the Summer Showcase, Wahlstrom learned much from his experience and is now making major strides for the USNTDP Under-18 team this season.
"My skill and the way I shoot the puck to generate scoring chances are probably my best assets," Wahlstrom said. "Maybe the way I get under a guy's skin and use my body to hit people are two other qualities."
Wahlstrom, who received an A rating in NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list, leads the NTDP U-18 team in goals (16), assists (15), points (31), power-play goals (four) and shots on goal (108).
"He's an elite world-class talent and has a great work ethic to match," NTDP U-18 coach Seth Appert said. "He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot; he can hit a one-timer as good or better than most NHL players. He has a quick release on his line rushes and he can beat a goalie from further out than most players."
Wahlstrom, of Quincy, Massachusetts, will attend Harvard next season.
"He's strong, doesn't get tossed around, sticks his nose in there and when he skates he looks like [Buffalo Sabres center] Jack Eichel," U.S. national junior team coach Bob Motzko said. "He's effortless up and down the rink and can really shoot a puck."
Wahlstrom had one assist and five shots on goal in three games at the Summer Showcase, mostly on a line with fellow 2018 NHL Draft-eligible forward Brady Tkachuk, also an A-rated skater on Central Scouting's November players to watch list.
"He's one of the most skilled players I've ever played with or against," Tkachuk said. "One-on-one, he'll probably beat you every time. He's a big body, can play physical, and creates room out there so that helps on give-and-go's. He wants the puck because he's a great shooter."
Wahlstrom had five points (four goals, one assist), 21 shots on goal and won a gold medal as the youngest player for the United States at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Slovakia in April.
He credits much of his success and confidence to his father, Joakim, who played a season at the University of Maine and two seasons in Sweden.
"Dad played with a lot of speed, up and down the ice," Wahlstrom said. "My creativity and ability to slow the pace down and make everyone around me read off each other are important. It's important to get into those dirty areas to create scoring chances."
Wahlstrom made headlines long before joining the NTDP. His shootout move for a goal prior to a Boston Bruins game as a 9-year-old went viral on YouTube.
"I was going to have some fun with it so I just picked it up on my stick, twirled it around, shot, and it went in," he said. "When I saw it go in I was shocked, to be honest. I can tell you that's a pretty low-percentage move."
Wahlstrom played two seasons at prep powerhouse Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota, where Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise each got his start. Under the direction of current Buffalo Sabres assistant coach Tom Ward, coach of Shattuck St. Mary's at the time, Wahlstrom learned the importance of playing a tougher game, even as a 15-year-old.
"When you get to where you want to be as an athlete, you want to be one of those guys that the coach is tapping on the shoulder to jump over the boards because they trust you to make good team-orientated plays," Ward said. "Whether it's to score the winning goal, make the pass for the winning goal, win a draw or block a shot to prevent the winning goal, that's all a part of it."
Wahlstrom had 52 points (26 goals, 26 assists) in 43 games for Shattuck St. Mary's midget prep team in 2015-16.
"Oliver didn't understand that he could be just as helpful in those moments without the puck as he was in those moments with the puck," Ward said. "He needed to start to change the way he looked at the game and thought about himself in the game. He just needed to get out of youth hockey mode and start playing big-boy hockey."
Said Wahlstrom: "[Ward] yelled at me to stop playing like a 15-year-old and start playing like an 18-year-old. I kind of use that as motivation even today. He helped me mature as a player."