NATHAN Walker is set to realize his dream of becoming the first Australian to play in the NHL after making the Washington Capitals’ opening roster for 2017/18.
Walker was named as the Capitals released their squad on Wednesday, ahead of their season opener against the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
The 23-year-old is no guarantee to feature in that game — and the roster is still subject to change — but his long-awaited debut now appears only a matter of time. He’s already made history in becoming the first Australian to make an NHL team’s roster.
Walker impressed for the Capitals in pre-season, fighting off stiff competition from other forwards to earn a place in the squad. It’s a culmination of years of perseverance and hard work for Wales-born, Sydney-raised Walker, who played in the Czech Republic before moving to the US and getting drafted by the Capitals in 2014.
Walker has spent much of his time since playing for Washington’s feeder team, the Hershey Bears in the AHL (American Hockey League). He scored 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 games last season and looked on the verge of a mid-season NHL call-up before an untimely wrist injury.
At just 173cm, Walker is often one of the smallest players on the ice but has impressed with his energy, pace and penalty-killing ability.
“He has an effect on the game,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
“He may not be the most natural goal scorer, but he has (an) effect on pace of play, the zone play. He wears people out. He’s in your face and gets people off their game, so there’s a lot of good things about Nathan that you like.”