Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with New York Islanders top-prospect, Oliver Wahlstrom. Wahlstrom was the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft where he was taken out of the US National Team Development Program.
He was projected to go in the top-seven, so when Wahlstrom was available, Lou Lamoriello did not trade the pick and instead selected the future offensive juggernaut. Since the Rangers had the 10th pick and they took Vitaly Kravtsov instead (who was projected to go in the mid- to late-first round), there will always be comparisons of the two throughout their growth as players.
As a nine-year-old, Wahlstrom went viral for performing in a shootout competition at TD Garden. Thus, he was on the radar of many hockey scouts at a young age.
In the rookie game last June, Wahlstrom wowed with two goals and his first was featured on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays. He is considered by many to be the Islanders top prospect and a potential linemate of Mathew Barzal’s when he makes the NHL.
What was your draft day experience like?
“It was something special. I was working towards the draft my whole life. I paid attention to the Auston Matthews draft, I was always watching the NHL Drafts in my living room. I got the opportunity to actually get drafted and it was something special. I had my entire family there, it was unbelievable.”
What did the USNTDP teach you?
“It’s been everything for me. The past two years I spent in the program was unbelievable. The experience, the training, the staff, everyone there has just been onboard with everything and it’s just the best place for kids to go to grow and develop their game. It was really helpful for me to go there. I was very proud to represent my country; it was something really special. I’ll cherish those two years forever. I made a lot of good friends in the program, it was just a blast. I’ll always cherish my time there.”
What NHL player would you say your game resembles?
“I think I play a little bit like Patrick Laine. Similar shot and release point, he’s my favorite player. My childhood hero was Alexander Ovechkin, I don’t think I play like him but I just love watching him. As a kid, I always had thoughts of watching him in my head. I always grew up watching him so those two players were my favorite.”
Why did you choose to play at Boston College vs. other schools?
“Well it was between BC and the University of Michigan, I haven’t been home in my hometown in Boston for four or five years and played in my hometown. It was nice to be in Boston and take a few classes here while playing the sport I love. Boston College is an unbelievable school, great campus, great coaching staff behind us, and great facilities. It was a no-brainer for me.”
What was it like being a Youtube sensation as a 9-year-old?
“It’s been a long ride for me at that age. Going all over the country touring and being on Good Morning America, it really was a special moment for me and my family. Not a bunch of nine-year-olds get to say that they’re on Good Morning America. It was a great experience for me at a young age to see the media like that. I think it helps me grow as a person and get through tougher times with media as my career comes along. Those couples of weeks were crazy for my family. It was a lot of fun to go through!”
What’s one piece of advice that you’ve gotten from someone in the hockey industry that stuck with you?
“I think the only thing my dad told me was to work hard and have fun. I think that’s just who I am. I’m a happy-go-lucky type of kid. I show up at the rink ready and I’m just happy to play hard and work hard. When I’m sitting in class I get a little antsy about when it’s almost time to leave because I wanna get back to the rink. He told me just have fun, work hard, and just be yourself. That’s my motto, that’s what I go by.”
What are you looking forward to most about playing in New York?
“Just being in New York. Obviously, it’s a great city and the organization itself has really grown. Lou Lamoriello is a world-class GM, he’s unbelievable. The new coaching staff coming in is gonna be great. We have very good players, a very good young core that I can hopefully be a part of! New York is New York, it’s gonna be unbelievable! Getting to go downtown on your off days and being able to relax there is something special that not many teams can offer. I’m very fortunate to be in this position right now and be drafted by such a great organization.”
What was rookie camp like?
“Rookie camp was really fun, it was the first time I was able to put an NHL jersey on. Even if it was a practice jersey, it was still the first time I had a logo on my chest. I took that to heart; it was a really special moment for me. I got to meet all the guys and they have a great rookie core, a great group of guys. It was a dream come true for me to experience that and go from there. It was really there.”
If you weren’t a hockey player, what would you be?
“That’s a tough one, I’ve gotten that a couple of times. I’ve always grown up with sports, I played soccer, lacrosse, motocross, and of course hockey as a kid. It had to be something with sports. Whether it being a trainer or something like that would be pretty cool. I think I’d stay in the sports industry.”