Washington Capitals sign Australian Nathan Walker

Photo: capsinpictures.com
Photo: capsinpictures.com

Even if he doesn’t leave a legacy on the ice, Nathan Walker will go down in the hockey history books.

The Washington Capitals have signed Walker to a three year entry level contract making him the first Australian to play in the big leagues.

It’s been a long time coming for Walker who was originally born in Wales, UK but made Australia his home at an early age. The 20 year old Aussie has worked through the hockey system the hard way. Coming from a country in the southern hemisphere and one that is not particularly a hockey hotbed, it’s safe to say he was far from the radar of many scouts.

Hockey always has an eye for talent though. In 2007 Walker made the jump from youth hockey in Australia to suiting up for the U18 HC Vitkovice in the Czech Republic. Between them and the U20 team, Walker made a name for himself as a fast and stick skilled winger. At 17, he played in the Spengler Cup.

The benefit of being a hockey player from Australia is using the North American off-season to continue playing top level hockey in your home country. The Australian Ice Hockey League takes place during Australia’s winter which is Canada and the United States’ summer. Walker got to hone his craft all year round. Scouts finally took notice.

The Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League took a liking to this young lad and offered a chance. One that proved to be successful as Walker was almost a point a game player. Good thing too as the brass from the Washington Capitals took a liking and kept their eye on him. Signed to a developmental deal and invited to development camp, the Capitals sent the young 19 year old down to Hershey. The Bears were having a pretty good season on their own when Walker suited up for 43 games.

CapitalsDevelepmentCampDay4-8-of-46Impressing the folks with the Caps proved necessary and Walker did just that. He not only became history as the first Australian to be selected in an NHL Draft (2014, 3rd round, 89th overall), but he is now the first Australian to be signed to an NHL contract.

It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you play the game. If you’re good, you’re good. Someone will catch their eye on you eventually. The hockey world is small and filled with connections upon connections of people who spread the abilities of players through word of mouth. A note to players all over the world: Don’t ever give up hope.

The Washington Capitals open up their 2014/2015 season at home on October 9th when the Montreal Canadiens come to play.

Remember that date. It’ll be the answer to a trivia question some day.

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Australia’s dream is one step closer: Nathan Walker’s quest

CapitalsDevelepmentCampDay4-8-of-46On Saturday night, a mere three hours west from where I sat watching on television, a National Hockey League preseason game was taking place in the Yardmen Arena in the city of Belleville, Ontario. The community of Sterling-Rawdon won the Kraft Hockeyville challenge and was presented a National Hockey League game in their community.

While the teams of the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets took to the ice that is the home of the Belleville Bulls, only one name stood out to me. No, not Evander Kane or Dustin Byfuglien. Hell, not even Alexander Ovechkin.

That name was Nathan Walker.

Nathan Walker made history Saturday night becoming the first Australian to compete in a preseason NHL game as he skated with the Washington Capitals. He even helped out in the 4-3 shootout win, earning an assist on Washington’s first goal.

Walker was actually born in Wales, United Kingdom but grew up in Australia and found his love for the game. In 2007, he moved to the Czech Republic to help his play, suiting up for both under 18 and under 20 squads. Along the way he made stops in the Australia Ice Hockey League with the Sydney Ice Dogs.

Photo: capsinpictures.com
Photo: capsinpictures.com

Scouts saw something in this young kid as he signed a contract with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL for 2013. It was here in North America that the NHL started to really pay attention. After failing to be drafted in the 2013 Entry Draft in New Jersey, the Washington Capitals handed him a spot in their training camp leading to his debut Saturday night.

The sky is the limit for Walker. Given his talent and age, there is no doubt to see him in an NHL jersey sooner rather then later. Australia should be proud of the hockey talent they are producing.

Soon enough, and hopefully the world will take notice, the NHL might have a Aussie invasion.

Australian Nathan Walker invited to Washington Capitals Rookie Camp

In a historic moment for international hockey, Australian player Nathan Walker has been invited to the Washington Capitals rookie camp and could become the first Australian to play in the National Hockey League.

(Photo credit: USHL.com)
(Photo credit: USHL.com)

Walker is already over in North America suiting up for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. He began his career in Australia at the age of 6 and was dominating the compeition. As a result, he was scouted by a coach from Slovakia and was invited to play for HC Vítkovice of the Czech Extraliga. During the offseason, he returned home and kept his form up by playing for the Sydney Ice Dogs of the Australian Ice Hockey League .

The majority of his career has been spent in the Czech Reupublic. However, at the age of 19, he has already participated in the Spengler Cup, won gold with Team Australia in 2011 at the IIHF World Championships (Division II) and played in the 2013 USHL/NHL Top Prospects game. If only the Canadian Hockey League could get his hands on him, he’d have all of North America covered!

For a second straight year, Walker was passed upon by all 30 NHL teams in the entry draft. They are definitely missing out on a top quality offensive forward. At 19 years old and a solid 5’10 frame, Walker is yet to fill himself out. He would be a welcome addition on any team, regardless of league stature. In his 29 games with Youngstown earlier this year, he notched an impressive 27 points. If it wasn’t for injuries, he was well on his way to notching 50. He has the tools to become a point a game player.

(Photo: ushl.com)
(Photo: ushl.com)

The dream is alive. Nathan Walker wants to become the first Australian to play in the National Hockey League. I have no doubt that he will.