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Nathan Walker set to become first Aussie to play in NHL

HE could possibly be operating round for the Cronulla Sharks, however as a substitute Nathan Walker is on the verge of turning into the first Australian to play in the NHL.

Walker, 23, has had an excellent preseason with the Washington Capitals and is in line to function in the workforce’s season opener this week.

Walker’s journey from a younger boy impressed by The Mighty Ducks rising up in the Sutherland Shire, to the NHL, has been outstanding.

Walker was a promising rugby league participant, showing for Cronulla’s junior groups till he was 15.

But the lure of ice hockey proved too robust, and he shortly displayed a degree of expertise not beforehand seen in this nation.

The undersized but speedy winger spent six years enhancing his recreation as a young person in the Czech Republic, earlier than shifting to the US throughout the 2012-13 season.

Walker was drafted by the Capitals in 2014 with the 89th general choose.

Continued enchancment with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears considerably raised his profile inside the organisation, and powerful offensive returns over the previous two season positioned him on the verge of an NHL debut late final season.

That debut was placed on maintain after a damaged wrist sidelined him for six weeks, earlier than returning to the Bears for his or her 2016-17 Calder Cup Playoffs marketing campaign.

With a star-studded roster, the two-time reigning Presidents Trophy-winning Capitals wanted to release cap area over the American summer season and can enter the 2017-18 season with out forwards Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, and Daniel Winnik.

With their departure, coach Barry Trotz will want to bolster his line-up with prospects, which has opened the door for Walker, who was signed to a brand new two-year, two-way contract price $1.three million in June.

Walker’s robust preseason marketing campaign began with a powerful coaching camp, earlier than he scored the Capitals’ first objective of the preseason in opposition to the New Jersey Devils.

In the video games since, he’s proven the velocity, talent, and toughness to succeed at NHL degree.

Dubbed by Washington DC media as a “little wrecking ball”, Trotz has at all times been a robust supporter of Walker.

“You discuss a man that brings it each shift, he does,’’ Trotz mentioned.

“He has an impact on the sport. He might not be essentially the most pure objective scorer, however he has an impact on the tempo of play, the zone play, he wears folks out, he’s in your face, and he will get folks off their recreation.

“There’s a variety of good issues about Nathan that you simply like.’’

Trotz mentioned Walker’s ardour made him stand out.

“Walks was beginning to make issues occur. His velocity was noticeable, his will on the puck if you’ll was actually good.”

Asked what it’s like figuring out he’s on the verge of attaining his dream of being the first Australian to play in the NHL, Walker added: “Yeah it’s pretty big, but at the end of the day I’ve got to grind it out and try to push for that spot.”

Walker’s debut just isn’t solely set to break new floor, it would give the rising Australian Ice Hockey League one other increase on the again of a 2017 season which produced document attendance and on-line viewership figures.

The Capitals open their season on Friday in opposition to the Ottawa Senators.

Dan Clark is a US freelance sports activities author

daniel.clark@tbldaily.com

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