Oliver Wahlstrom first gained fame as a 9-year-old hockey wunderkind whose trick-shot goal went viral to the tune of 6 million YouTube views.

A few years later, as a seventh-grader at North Yarmouth Academy, he played forward on the varsity team’s top line. That winter he announced his intention to play for the University of Maine, at 13 becoming the youngest player ever to make a college hockey commitment.

Now 16, the Yarmouth native continues to impress. Wahlstrom scored a team-high four goals to help the United States win the recent under-18 world championships in Slovakia.

Oliver Wahlstrom

“The sky’s the limit for this young man,” said U18 coach John Wroblewski. “If he stays with it, he’s going to get selected in the first round of the NHL draft. I think he’s going to be playing in the NHL for a long time.”

Wahlstrom, who turns 17 in June, doesn’t become eligible for the NHL draft until 2018. His plans are to complete his high school education in three years so he can graduate next spring and enroll in the fall not at Orono, but at Harvard University.

But first he has another year in the U.S. National Team Development Program, based in Plymouth, Michigan. Speaking this week by phone, he sounded a bit jet-lagged after his trip back from the world championships, where he said his favorite moment came off the ice.

“Just putting on the jersey for the first time,” he said of his USA sweater, “it’s a dream come true to play for your country. And walking down the hallways, seeing the crowd, I’m not used to playing in front of thousands of people. I was very fortunate to be chosen and play with this team.”

The United States’ U18 team earned its seventh gold medal in nine years Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Finland before a crowd of 3,904. In seven tournament games (four preliminaries, a quarterfinal, semifinal and final), Wahlstrom had an assist along with his four goals and 16 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute misconduct in the third period of the gold medal game, which ended with him in the box.

Oliver Wahlstrom demonstrates the technique of his trick shot with his father, Joakim, at WCSH-TV studios during an interview with ESPN. Staff photo by Tim Greenway

“I had an open-ice hit,” he said. “They said it was head contact.”

Wahlstrom, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 198 pounds, was one of four players called up to the U18 team from the U17 team in late February and was one of two to remain with the older squad.

“He’s a complete hockey player,” said Wroblewski, the coach. “Big frame. He can skate. He’s got all the skills you can want. He can hammer a puck, and he’s got great vision.”

At age 9, Wahlstrom took part in a mini one-on-one competition between periods of a Bruins game in Boston. He flummoxed a young goalie with a lacrosse-style move that involved laying the stick on the ice, twirling the puck onto his stick blade, spinning 360 degrees, and then at chest level flipping the puck just inside the left post.

As a seventh-grader at NYA, Wahlstrom scored 11 goals with 18 assists in 22 varsity games. After making his verbal commitment to UMaine, he changed his mind 18 months later.

“It was a pretty early moment,” he said of his initial decision to follow his father’s footsteps to Orono. “At the end of the day, I just wanted to see what options I had. I kind of wanted to see what other places were like.”

Joakim Wahlstrom, Oliver’s dad, spent the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons at UMaine before playing professionally in Sweden. He now lives in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Eric Graham was NYA’s head coach when Oliver Wahlstrom played on the varsity as a seventh-grader, a feat possible because NYA competes as a prep school and doesn’t fall under Maine Principals’ Association rules.

“He was a little bit older for his grade, so he wasn’t that much younger than some of our freshmen,” said Graham, now an assistant coach at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. “He was definitely playing up, but he was pretty big and very strong on his skates.”

Wahlstrom left NYA in 2014 for one of the country’s most prestigious hockey prep schools, Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, where he had 68 goals and 46 assists in 65 games as a Bantam and 26 goals and 26 assists in 43 games as a Midget.

Instead of continuing as a sophomore at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, Wahlstrom joined the U.S. National Team Development Program in Michigan, about halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor. He lives with a billet family and attends Novi High School, usually taking four morning classes before heading to the rink.

“It was quite a process, actually,” Wahlstrom said of the development program. “There are certain stages you have to go through to make your way up there.”

In the 2015-16 season, Wahlstrom played for the U.S. team that won a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, last February. This winter he played 43 games for the U.S. U17 team, mostly against the nation’s top junior hockey teams, and 19 games for the U18 squad, which also plays collegiate teams.

“He’s an elite offensive player,” Wroblewski said. “The goal scoring definitely pops out at you, but he’s exceptional on the forecheck. He had some of the biggest hits of the tournament. He doesn’t float around and wait for opportunities, he goes out and makes them.”

Wahlstrom plans to remain in the national team development program and play for the U18 team again next season. In the summer of 2015, he made a verbal commitment to Harvard. Further ahead is the 2018 NHL draft.

“It’s pretty cool, but you’ve got to take one step at a time,” he said of his plans. “It’s pretty exciting as well.”

Wahlstrom’s older sister, Alexandra, will graduate this spring from St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and plans to play lacrosse at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Their mom lives in Falmouth.

Oliver, known to his teammates as both “Ollie” and “Wally,” said he visits Maine on occasion, but plans to spend the summer in Boston, training five days a week. His favorite NHL team is the Washington Capitals.

“He was a good student who worked very hard at NYA,” said Graham, his old coach. “I always had a lot of respect for him for that. He works hard on and off the ice, which is why he continues to be one of the best players in the world for his age.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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