Photo: Washington Capitals
From the moment he was drafted, Capitals prospect Nathan Walker literally made history. As the first Australian-born player taken in the NHL Entry Draft (89th overall in 2014), Walker put himself in a good position to (hopefully) play in the NHL at some point in the near future. And while it has taken a few seasons of development in the American Hockey League, Walker is on the cusp of being the first Australian to play in the NHL.
While a roster spot is never guaranteed, the general consensus among many within the organization seems to be that Walker is the most NHL-ready of the Capitals’ top prospects, something Hershey Bears head coach Troy Mann reiterated in an interview not long ago. While he is not the biggest player at 5’8″, Walker has shown flashes of offensive potential during his time in the AHL (his career-high in points was 41 in 2015-16) and is not afraid to stand up for his teammates despite his size. Walker has also been a rather solid defensive player as well, finishing with a combined plus-30 rating over his four full seasons in the AHL. As a result of his hard work the last four seasons, the Capitals re-signed him to a two-year contract this summer. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan tweeted yesterday that Walker’s chances of making the team out of training camp were very likely.
Very likely, I’d say. https://t.co/pPKnWeOsHw
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) September 17, 2017
But Walker is also a very fast player and is one of the team’s hardest-working players. As one can imagine, Australia is not exactly the hockey capital of the world, and when he was only a teenager, Walker moved to the Czech Republic to pursue his dream of playing in the NHL. Because of his small stature, he has had to earn everything he’s achieved in his career. And while there are other prospects that are ready for a chance to prove themselves at the NHL level, Walker has developed into a well-rounded. two-way player, which makes him a versatile player the Caps would have at their disposal.
But when, not if, Walker makes his NHL debut, it will be a historic accomplishment that will (obviously) never be repeated, and the effects it will have on his native Australia will be huge. Walker has already become somewhat of a celebrity in Australia, and his playing in the NHL could cause the growth of hockey in the land Down Under, something that will continue to grow the game around the world. With Walker set to play in the Caps’ first preseason game tonight, fans will get a chance to see Walker in action for the first time this fall.
By Michael Fleetwood