A 13-year-old Yarmouth boy who reached hockey fame by the time he was just 9 by appearing on ESPN scoring a dazzling goal has made history again.
Oliver Wahlstrom, a seventh-grader who plays forward for North Yarmouth Academy varsity, has made a verbal commitment to begin play for the University of Maine men’s hockey team beginning in the 2019-20 season.
According to his current coach, Wahlstrom is the youngest player ever to commit to an NCAA college hockey program.
While he understands circumstances can change before he gets through high school, Wahlstrom said he knows this is what he wants. He said he loves the campus at Orono and likes how experienced the hockey coaching staff is there.
“I just love Maine. I don’t feel like leaving,” Wahlstrom said in a telephone interview Saturday evening after coming off the ice after North Yarmouth Academy’s home loss against Berwick Academy. “I’m a kid who likes fishing, hunting, plays golf, likes the woods.”
The verbal agreement isn’t binding for either party. NCAA rules prohibit prospective student-athletes from signing a letter of intent until their junior year in high school.
UMaine men’s hockey coach Red Gendron declined to comment Saturday on Wahlstrom, saying he could not do so without a letter of intent.
Wahlstrom said as a Maine native he’s just not a city kid, but so far he likes the bright lights of the media attention he’s receiving for his hockey skills.
“It pumps me up to try harder,” he said of the phone calls he’s received and on-camera interviews. “All I can do is work from here and be the best I can when I enter UMaine.”
Wahlstrom had his first brush with fame in 2009, when he appeared between periods at a Boston Bruins game in a televised shootout – just him against the goalie. The move he made during that Mini One-on-One event was so stunning – balancing the puck on the blade of his stick before launching off a 360-degree spin into the net, which left the goalie with no time to react.
That 70-second video made the rounds from NECN to ESPN, then to the Internet on YouTube and NHL.com. The YouTube video alone has received more than 4.3 million views.
In committing to play for UMaine, the 5-foot 9-inch, 155-pounder is skating a path similar to that of his father, Joakim Wahlstrom, who played for the University of Maine in 1988 and 1989.
“He’s much better than I ever was. He has a different level of play,” his father said Saturday. “He’s on the right path. He’s got a big passion for the game. He works really hard.”
Joakim Wahlstrom said he and his wife, Penny, are both Orono graduates and feel very comfortable with Oliver’s decision to go to their alma mater, knowing he will be safe in that environment.
“There’s a lot of history that goes along with his decision,” his father said.
But Joakim Wahlstrom admits that there are a lot of years between now and when his son is committed to start playing with the Black Bears, and it’s possible something could change.
“You can’t know,” Joakim Wahlstrom said. “But with his skill set right now, he looks like he’s going to have a good hockey career coming up. That’s up to him now.”
At North Yarmouth Academy, Oliver Wahlstrom is the youngest player on the team, competing with high school-age teammates and opponents. And he’s more than holding his own, playing on the first line at left wing. He has three goals and six assists for nine points with many games left in the season.
Wahlstrom said his father first put him on skates when he was a year old and could not stay up. By 3, he was able to stay on his feet and skate around the rink
“I started playing competitively when I was 6 or 7 with boys a year older than me,” he said. He has played since in numerous youth leagues.
Wahlstrom’s coach at North Yarmouth Academy, Eric Graham, said it’s been a lot of fun working with Oliver, seeing him improve with every game he plays as he adjusts to the prep school level.
“He wants to compete. He wants to find out what he can do,” Graham said. “He stands out in a lot of ways.”
Graham said most 13-year-olds would be too young to make such a decision, but not Oliver.
“For a lot of kids, I would say yes, it’s too young, too early,” Graham said. “But having known Oliver, to see how he plays, to see how he handles himself with the media, he is not a typical 13-year-old. He thinks it’s the best place in the world for his development. I think he’s known this and had this as a goal for quite a while.”
Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at: