In a couple of weeks the World Cup of Hockey will take center-stage of the hockey universe. Hockey’s most elite athletes will be representing their respective countries and playing for a world title and major bragging rights just before the NHL season gets underway.
There is one country that isn’t represented in the World Cup. Nor are there any NHLers from that particular country. That could all change this year. Nathan Walker, an Australian native, has a chance to be the first ever Australian-born player to play in a regular season NHL game – he’ll be wearing a Capitals’ sweater.
Two years ago, Mike Vogel introduced us to Nathan in his July 2nd, 2014 Rinkside Update, you can watch his full interview via the video below.
Walker was selected by the Capitals in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, 89th overall. And just a few weeks after Mike Vogel’s interview with Nathan, he did sign a three year entry level contract with the Capitals.
Nathan has a golden opportunity to live out his dream this season by making the Capitals’ roster at the conclusion of Training Camp. With Jason Chimera joining the Islanders via free agency, Walker could be just what’s needed to fill the Caps gap in the left wing position on the third or fourth line.
The 22 year old has spent the last three seasons in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. This past season he scored 17 goals and tallied 24 assist in 73 regular season games and was a significant contributor to Hershey’s run to the Calder Cup Final. He finished the playoffs with two goals and three assists, one of them was a game-winner that sent them to the Calder Cup final!
Walker has also embraced the community of “Chocolate Town”. He regularly attends player appearances, schools, and other community events. Julie Beidler, NoVa Caps’ Bears Insider, shared with me that Walker was the selected player of the Bears’ “Man of the Year” Award.
In a recent interview with CSN’s Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Walker spoke on the potential excitement surrounding being the first Australian-born player to lace up the skates in a NHL uniform, you can watch the interview via Tarik’s tweet, below.
“It’s pretty huge,” said Walker. “All my friends back home and the hockey community, they’re all rooting for me. Every time I go home they keep asking me when that first game is gonna happen. It’s a really close hockey community back home so it would be pretty big.”
When he does make his NHL debut, at whatever point the Caps decide to call him up from Hershey, he will not only have Caps Nation behind him, but the entire country of Australia will be rooting for him, too.
By Michael Marzzacco