Blacktown Flyer junior Nathan Walker on the verge of NHL debut with Washington Capitals

Australian made: Nathan Walker is on the verge of breaking into the NHL with the Washngton Capitals. Picture: Mark Bradford/Pic by Wulos
Australian made: Nathan Walker is on the verge of breaking into the NHL with the Washngton Capitals. Picture: Mark Bradford/Pic by Wulos

The dream may have started in an ice rink in Blacktown but Nathan Walker is now on the verge of breaking into the NHL.

It’s the last barrier in the American big four sports – baseball, basketball, football and ice hockey - for an Australian player to break and Walker has been selected in the opening night roster for the Washington Capitals.

The match will be played tomorrow at 10.30am AEST with the Capitals taking on the Ottawa Senators and Walker is currently listed as an extra forward.

It’s not confirmed as to whether he’ll step out on the ice in the season opener but it shows just how far he has come.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been a fan of Walker for some time and praised his effort during the pre-season.

“I would say this, we’re still a couple of days from the start of our season and Nathan Walker is still on our hockey team so I think he’s doing pretty good,” Trotz told media last week.

“We started out with 70 players, so I think he’s doing pretty well.

“He’s got a really unique skill set – he’s explosive, he’s quick, he gets on people, he causes havoc, he’s not nice to play against. It’s a lot of those Australian qualities that endear you south of the equator with Australian’s, he has that mentality and mindset.

“He’s going to make you pay when you’re out there, he’s going to play hard against you and he’s going to have an effect on the ice.”

It’s been a long road for Walker to make the cut in the world’s biggest ice hockey competition.

Born in Wales, the Walker’s emigrated to Australia when Nathan was young. 

A star junior rugby league player who played youth Cronulla Sharks side, Walker also found ice hockey at age 6 after watching his older brother Ryan play. 

Living in the Sutherland Shire, the Walker’s covered a lot of ground in pursuit of the hockey dream. 

By the time he was 13, was playing under-14s, where he scored 77 goals and 25 assist for 102 points - in only 14 games. 

He was also playing in under-16s and scored 69 points in 16 games.

Walker was yearning for more and, at 13, moved to the Czech Republic where he was quickly snapped up by HC Vitkovice Steel and moved through the ranks and at 16, played in the Czech elite league.

He was thrust into the minds of teams for the NHL draft in 2012 and although he wasn’t selected, attended the Capitals development camp.

After returning to the Czech Republic, Walker signed with the Youngstown Phantoms and scored 27 points in 29 games and was promptly signed by the Capitals affiliate team, the Hershey Bears.

Entering his final draft in 2014, Walker was selected in the third round with the Capitals trading for a higher pick to get the then 20-year-old and making history as the first Australian to be selected in an NHL draft.

Walker has played for Hershey since and stayed in the minds of Capitals coaches with impressive performances and looks to have broken through again with another strong performance during the pre-season.

Nathan’s mum Ceri Walker told the said he has had to give up a lot to chase his dream.

"Nathan has made a lot of sacrifices since a very young age, being away from home since the age of 13, living for years in a country whose first language was not English, living with a family that he did not know, spending endless Christmases on his own, missing out on all family and mates' celebrations,” she said.

“If he steps out onto the ice on opening night, then it would have been all worth it, and we can all scream, 'He did it!'”


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