This season, I will be working with Ice Hockey of Australia (the Australian Ice Hockey Federation) to release news and reaction about Nathan Walker’s historic achievements in the NHL. Here’s my first article.
NHL rosters had to be finalized Tuesday afternoon for the start of the 2017-18 regular season. As the clock struck five, forward Nathan Walker remained one of the Capitals’ 23 men to start the season. After years of hard work and dedication, Nathan quietly realized his dream of becoming the first Australian ever to make an NHL team.
Wednesday, Walker spent his first official day in the NHL, skating as the extra forward on the team’s fourth line with Tyler Graovac, Jay Beagle, and Devante-Smith Pelly. Walker will likely not suit up Thursday night in the Capitals season opener against the Senators, but he’s already receiving some love from his home country.
The Hon. Stuart Ayres MP, the Sport Minister in Walker’s home State of New South Wales, Australia, called Walker’s achievement “incredible.”
“We have had Australians crack the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, so it is an incredible achievement for Nathan to now hit the ice with some of the world’s best hockey players,” Ayers said.
Here’s the full press release from Ice Hockey of Australia:
Nathan Walker makes the Washington Capitals becoming the first Aussie to make the world-famous NHL
The Hon Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Sport in Nathan’s home State of New South Wales, Australia said, “From growing up playing junior league for the National Rugby League (NRL) team ‘Cronulla Sharks’ to becoming the first Australian to make the National Hockey Leagues Washington Capitals, Nathan Walker has made New South Wales proud.”
Walker first played ice hockey in Australia at the age of six, after watching his older brother Ryan play as well as being inspired by The Mighty Ducks film series and Mystery, Alaska, all of which are based around ice hockey. Walker’s skills accelerated quickly and by the age of thirteen he was in a league with players as old as twenty and able to outplay them.
In 2007, at only 13 years of age, his mother Ceri, dropped Nathan at the train station and she tearfully watched her youngest son begin his extraordinary journey where Nathan headed to the Czech Republic. Walker began to be noticed by the National Hockey League (NHL). In the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s January 2012 list of draft prospects, Walker was listed as the 21st best European-based skater for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the second highest Czech-based player on the list. Walker was listed as the 25th best European skater in the NHL’s final list of prospects for the 2012 Entry Draft. He was not selected in the Entry Draft, but was invited to participate in the Washington Capitals development camp in July.
After six years in the Czech Republic, Walker signed a contract on January 8, 2013 with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, a junior ice hockey league in the United States. Following that Season, Walker signed a contract with the Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears. In the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, he was selected in the third round, 89th overall, by the Capitals. In doing so, Walker became the first Australian to be selected in an NHL draft. On July 25, 2014, Walker was signed to a three-year entry-level contract with the Capitals.
“We have had Australians crack the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, so it is an incredible achievement for Nathan to now hit the ice with some of the world’s best hockey players”, said the Minister for Sport.
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