Nathan Walker has already accomplished a lot of firsts. Walker is the first Australian hockey player to play in the AHL, the first Australian hockey player to be drafted by an NHL team, and the first Australian hockey player to have a snow globe made in his honor as a promotional giveaway. Walker, who was born in Wales but grew up playing ice hockey in Australia, has one last major dream: to become the first Australian to play in the NHL.
If you ask Caps head coach Barry Trotz, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
“He’s going to be a really great story when he plays in the National Hockey League,” Trotz said Monday after practice. “He’ll be the first Australian player who was born in Australia and really started training in Australia. And how he’s done it… I mean, he’ll be an inspiration to a lot of people.”
Trotz’s full comments on Walker are below.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 3, 2016
Has Nathan Walker at all surprised you with his feisty-ness, considering he’s a smaller guy?
Barry Trotz: Not at all, the first time we met Nathan Walker you knew he was feisty. The first time you meet Nathan Walker, you like him. The first time you see Nathan Walker play he’s got a passion for the game, he’s determined to get to the National Hockey League. I’m pretty sure he’s going to play in the National Hockey League. I don’t know when, but he’s going to play in the National Hockey League. I’m not going to give you that answer, only he can in some sense by his play. But, he’s gotten really good. He’s a very good penalty killer, he’s competitive, size doesn’t matter to him, he’s strong as an ox, he’s quick. You think about it, he could’ve just finished junior and he’s already going into his third season pro. That’s pretty good. He’s going to be a really great story when he plays in the National Hockey League. He’ll be the first Australian player who was born in Australia and really started training in Australia. And how he’s done it… I mean, he’ll be an inspiration to a lot of people.
It was funny. My daughter was in Australia for the last year and she saw a lot of Caps jerseys. When a couple people found out that her dad works for the Caps, they didn’t know what he did, the first thing they did was ask about Nathan Walker. She did a hockey class there, so… he’s actually inspiring young people in Australia even though it’s probably not as big news to us here, it’s pretty big news I think back there especially in that Sydney area.
There’s only one way to appropriately celebrate these quotes.
After playing in Australia as a kid, Walker eventually moved to the Czech Republic in 2007 to further his career. He joined the junior program of HC Vítkovice, a member of the Czech Extraliga. He first played for the senior team in 2011, becoming the first Australian ice hockey player to play for a professional senior team in Europe.
In 2013, Walker signed with the Youngstown Phantoms of the junior United States Hockey League, moving to North America for the first time. His play got the attention of the Capitals who invited him to camp in 2013. Walker later signed an AHL-only deal with the Hershey Bears. Walker was eventually selected by the Capitals in the third round of the 2014 Draft. During the 2015-16 AHL season, the speedy grinder made a huge leap in his development, averaging over half a point per game (41 points in 73 games). Walker also added two goals during the postseason, helping push the Bears to their first Calder Cup Final appearance in five years.
Walker has continued to impress during Caps training camp, sticking with the team through multiple cutdowns of the roster. Walker remained in camp longer than the team’s top two prospects, Jakub Vrana and Madison Bowey, who were optioned to Hershey on Monday.
Against the Blues that night, Walker’s hard-working checking line authored the Caps’ only even-strength goal, which is impressive considering Trotz dressed all of the team’s star players minus Evgeny Kuznetsov.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 4, 2016
On Tuesday, Walker was optioned to Hershey.
The #Caps have released Boyd, Lewington, Stephenson and Walker from their training camp roster. They will report to Hershey.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) October 4, 2016
But if we are to believe Trotz, we will be seeing Walker sooner rather than later.
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