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A 13-year-old committed to Maine – now what?

Ryan Kennedy
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Author: The Hockey News

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A 13-year-old committed to Maine – now what?

Ryan Kennedy
By:

Oliver Wahlstrom became the youngest player ever to verbally commit to an NCAA hockey program when the seventh grader pledged his talents to the University of Maine Black Bears. Will we ever hear this name again?

Congratulations to 13-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom, who became the youngest player ever to verbally commit to an NCAA hockey program when the seventh grader pledged his talents to the University of Maine Black Bears. Will we ever hear this name again? Maybe, maybe not. And even if Wahlstrom does become a hot NHL prospect, there's no guarantee he'll do so with Maine.

Despite the early roars from the Internet this morning about how crazy it is for a 13-year-old to be choosing a college when he hasn't even been to high school yet, I'm a little less moved. Wahlstrom first gained notoriety when he was nine years old, scoring a lacrosse-style shootout goal before a Boston Bruins game:

Totally impressive. No doubt the kid has skills, but the operative word is "kid." A lot can happen in the next few years. Maybe Wahlstrom gets really into skateboarding or playing drums. Maybe he gets burned out by the hype and doesn't want to play hockey anymore. Maybe he never grows another inch from his current 5-foot-9, 155-pound frame, or maybe he grows another foot and decides basketball makes more sense.

And the most likely? Maybe the University of Maine doesn't suit him once he actually gets close to joining the team in 2019. Will coach Red Gendron still be there? Will the Bears be a powerhouse or an also-ran in Hockey East? There are no answers for that now.

Changing verbal commitments is common in college hockey, especially for kids who pledge early. Sonny Milano and Jack Dougherty are both with the U.S. National Team Development Program this season and are both expected to go in the first two rounds of the NHL draft. Milano originally committed to Notre Dame and Dougherty to Ohio State. But both felt they rushed into their original decisions and now Milano is slated to play for Boston College and Dougherty for Wisconsin.

Anaheim Ducks pick Kevin Roy could have been the man at Brown University, but switched up to play with his brother at Northeastern and has been the Huskies' MVP ever since. It's no slight on the school and it's no condemnation of the player; things change and fits that made sense at the time no longer do.

But does this early spotlight give Wahlstrom an edge as an NHL prospect? Nope. NHL scouts may raise an eyebrow if a player is incredible at 16 years old, but in general they focus on the draft class at hand and nothing more.

So file away the name Oliver Wahlstrom, because you may hear about him again in the future. But you may not, either. As long as he's having fun playing hockey, there isn't much left to say about him for a few more years – at least.

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A 13-year-old committed to Maine – now what?