Wahl-In

Oliver Wahlstrom’s career continues to ascend since jaw-dropping goal at 9 years old.

An unknown third grader confidently stepped onto the ice at TD Bank Garden 14 years ago ready to send the Boston Bruins fan base into an intermission frenzy. 

The 9-year-old corralled a puck at center ice, dangled his way across the blue line and zeroed in on the opposing goalie during a mini one-on-one competition. In a blink of an eye, the youth player next bent his legs low in the high slot, scooped up the puck with his stick and then proceeded to spin himself 360 degrees and fling the puck right past the mesmerized goalie’s right shoulder. 

The stunned goalie could only shrug and think, ‘Was I really supposed to stop that?”

Low and behold, the trick shot artist – Oliver Wahlstrom – was only getting started. 

The first time the now New York Islander found himself in red, white and blue wasn’t in a jersey, but rather between the pages of USA Hockey Magazine’s December 2009 issue after a feature story ran on his dazzling goal.

The move, named after Mike Legg’s goal during a 1996 playoff game between Michigan and Minnesota, is a difficult play, so it was understandable that the hockey world went nuts over young Wahlstrom’s ability to have seemingly mastered it.

An ESPN interview, a feature on CBS Morning News, multiple photoshoots and seemingly countless chats with news outlets filled the young YouTube sensation’s schedule. 

The now 22-year-old still chuckles when recalling his childhood breakthrough. 

“It was wild to go through that at nine,” Wahlstrom recalled with a fond sigh. “That move at that age was crazy, so a lot of stuff came at me. It was exciting. And looking back, it was also a good learning experience to go through that at a young age.”

The experience in the spotlight would prove advantageous for the Portland, Maine, native, as he eventually joined the National Team Development Program (2016-2018) as a teenager. It was there in Plymouth, Michigan, Wahlstrom built lifelong friendships.

“I was with the NTDP for two years and everybody on that team is still my best friend,” he said. “We still talk every day. Our U-17 year. We would play mostly in the USHL. We’d sleep on the bus, everybody would get McDonald’s and we all just had a blast. You build friendships for a lifetime there. I’m still in contact with my billet family from Novi. It’s like a second home after those two years. The NTDP is an unbelievable place to grow and develop as a person.”

Wahlstrom also evolved tremendously as a player, perhaps becoming an even more elite goal scorer than he was as a 9-year-old. He played in 125 games for the NTDP and still ranks sixth in goals (72) and 10th in points (134) all time. 

However, Wahlstrom’s proudest moments trace back to the nine times he represented the U.S. on the international stage, specifically winning a gold medal with the 2017 Under-18 Men’s National Team. 

“Winning U-18 worlds with the ’99 group in 2017 was really cool and then going over to Russia the next year with all your best buddies and playing in that tournament over there was awesome,” he said. “I felt like I grew up fast. We were taught a lot of good things about how to be both on and off the ice, so it’s a special place to me.”

Wahlstrom has not forgotten the emotions that come with slipping on a USA jersey for the first time either. 

“Oh, it was crazy,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “To represent your country, and to do it with 23 of your best buddies, is pretty cool. I was born in America and it’s incredible to put that sweater on. Anytime I get to represent my country, it’s always a special feeling.

“It will never get old wearing those colors.”  

The right-handed winger has since brought his offensive prowess to Long Island after the Islanders selected him in the first round, 11th overall, of the 2018 NHL Draft. Sixteen former NTDP teammates were also drafted that year, including Brady Tkachuk, Quinn Hughes, Joel Farabee and K’Andre Miller joining Wahlstrom in the first round.

Wahlstrom has been able to continue to grow in New York thanks to some fellow USA Hockey alumni. 

“It was a huge help to come to a team with a lot of American talent,” he said. “Nellie [Brock Nelson], Palms [Kyle Palmieri] and Zach [Parise] played overseas for a little bit too, so that’s been good. We all have roots with USA Hockey. It started the development process for everybody, and it always holds a special spot for us. 

Wahlstrom said the bond goes beyond his brothers on Long Island, and the pride of representing the stars and stripes is axiomatic in everybody who’s had the honor.

“It’s awesome to see any NTDP guys,” he said. “We always laugh mid-game and say a joke to each other.”

As for the near future, his sights are set on helping the Islanders to the club’s first Stanley Cup title since 1983.

“The goal here in New York is obviously to make the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup, that’s the biggest thing right now,” he said.

As for whether the 22-year-old can do all the same tricks as his 9-year-old self…

“Oh, yeah,” he boasted with a laugh. “Yeah, I can.”

Issue: 
2023-03

Poll

Who is your favorite 2023/2024 NHL Rookie?
Connor Bedard
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Matthew Knies
0%
Brock Faber
100%
Logan Stankoven
0%
Logan Cooley
0%
Total votes: 3