NATHAN Walker’s scoring spree in the US is turning heads, including that of a top NHL coach, prompting speculation the Aussie’s league debut might not be far away.
The Aussie left wing has been in career-best form with the Washington Capitals affiliate team in the American Hockey League, the Hershey Bears.
Since January, Walker has had 15 points — including seven goals — in 22 AHL games. His total for the season so far is 12 goals and 27 points, the most he has ever scored in his three seasons with the Bears, since being drafted by the Capitals in 2014.
Walker’s display on the ice hasn’t gone unnoticed either, with Capitals coach Barry Trotz impressed with what he saw from the Sydney product at a Hershey game this week.
“Some young guys that are developing — you also see that up front. You’ve got younger guys like Nathan Walker. I felt [Walker] was very effective all night,” Trotz told Bears insider Kyle Mace.
“We’ve got a good combination of veteran players and developing young players.”
With 13 of the Capitals roster having spent time playing for the Bears, Trotz foresees the future of the Washington franchise in Hershey, and wants to develop players to a level where they can seamlessly step up to the NHL team.
“We are trying to build a roster systematically, mirroring the systems of Hershey and Washington, even with the way we teach terminology,” Trotz said.
“So when a player comes up it feels the same and he doesn’t have to overthink things. I’m really happy with the development of the players.”
Walker returned to hockey just last September after a devastating ACL injury ruled him out of much of 2014/15. Following intense rehab, the 22-year-old has bounced back in emphatic style, playing more games than ever for the Bears (54) and appears well on track to fulfil his NHL dream in good time.
Along with the endorsement from Trotz, Walker’s stellar season has also made him one of the most popular players in the Bears team.
His fast, aggressive and entertaining style of play has endeared him to Hershey fans and earned him the bizarre nickname of “Outback Jesus”.
Though Walker was signed by the Capitals in the NHL Draft two years ago, he is still yet to make his league debut.
As he continues to show promise and develop his skills in the AHL however, Walker remains the nation’s best chance of becoming the first Australian to play in the NHL.