The rumors have swirled, and now they have reached their end. The United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm added Oliver Wahlstrom to their roster on Thursday, sparking speculation that the Boston College freshman could be leaving the NCAA. BC has since refuted these rumors, indicating that he will be staying with the college program.
There is no substance to reports that Oliver Wahlstrom is leaving Boston College. He is playing today against Bentley.
— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) November 23, 2018
Wahlstrom was selected by the New York Islanders with the 11th overall pick of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The forward has potted two goals and no assists through nine games this season with the BC Eagles, falling short of expectations. The Eagles as a whole have also fallen short of expectations, beginning the 2018-19 campaign with a 3-5-1 overall record.
The rumors kicked off with the suspicion that, due to his performance and BC’s early struggles, Wahlstrom was unhappy with his current program. Hearing these rumors, the Storm decided to add Wahlstrom to their roster. This was to ensure that, if Wahlstrom was to leave the NCAA, Tri-City would own his rights if he was to look towards the USHL.
The USHL would be a likely destination for Wahlstrom if he was to depart from the NCAA. It would leave him the possibility of signing with the Islanders in the near future, opposed to being locked into an assignment to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles who currently hold his rights in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Transferring to another college program would have also been a viable option.
Speculation that Wahlstrom may want to leave BC gained a lot of traction for a number of factors. The 18-year-old has not been performing well and may not be getting as much ice time as he would like. Wahlstrom does lead his team in shots on goal with 35 but combined with his pair of goals that makes for a measly 5.7 shooting percentage.
This sort of move is also far from foreign to the NCAA and even the Eagles for that matter. Earlier this week, sophomore Jacob Tortora left BC and signed with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. This certainly added fuel to the fire in forming the hypothesis that Wahlstrom was looking to leave the program.
With the US National Development Team last season, Wahlstrom notched a whopping 48 goals and 46 assists in 62 games. He snagged 13 of those goals on the power play and picked up another three on the penalty kill. The performance made for an average of over 1.5 points per game and a staggering 18-point gap between Wahlstrom and the second-ranked player in scoring on the team that season.
During the 2016-17 campaign with the squad, Wahlstrom appeared in just 20 games but still managed to produce 10 goals and five assists. He maintained a plus-four rating while putting 45 pucks on net. It showed that the Islanders’ prospect was able to progress at an impressive rate, and it also indicates that he is still capable of such progression.
It seems the challenges of the NCAA, which includes playing against older players, could be holding him back. Still, those challenges are good for a young player; it teaches resiliency as well as how to address slumps and subpar performances. If Wahlstrom is to make it to the NHL, he will also have to face opponents who are older. So, while being on the ice with bigger, stronger players may be having a say in his poor performance thus far, it could very well lead to a more productive professional career.
In the end, staying with the Eagles is likely the right decision. Wahlstrom could very well find his A-game with BC before the season is out – it’s only been nine games after all. If the rumors of him being unhappy were true, he could always look towards another league or decide to transfer to another college program in the summer.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.