|Born||7 February 1994,|
|5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)|
186 lb (84 kg; 13 st 4 lb)
|St. Louis Blues|
|NHL Draft||89th overall, 2014|
Nathan Walker (born 7 February 1994) is a Welsh born Australian professional ice hockey forward who is currently playing under contract to the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League (NHL). Walker, who was born in Wales, grew up in Australia and first played ice hockey there. He moved to the Czech Republic in 2007 in order to further his career, and joined the junior program of HC Vítkovice, a member of the Czech Extraliga. He first played for the senior team in 2011, becoming the first Australian ice hockey player to play for a professional senior team in Europe. Along with HC Vítkovice, Walker was loaned to several lower-level Czech teams.
In 2013 Walker signed with the Youngstown Phantoms of the junior United States Hockey League, moving to North America for the first time. He attended the training camp of the Washington Capitals in 2013 and signed with their AHL affiliate Hershey. Walker represents Australia internationally, and first played for them at the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II tournament, where he helped his team win their group and earn a promotion to Division I for the following year. Passed over in the previous two NHL Entry Drafts, Walker was selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the first Australian selected in an NHL draft. After a few years in the AHL, Walker joined the Capitals in 2017, the first Australian to play in the NHL. He was placed on waivers and claimed by the Edmonton Oilers in the same season, but was re-acquired by the Capitals after only two games with the Oilers, and won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018.
Playing career[edit | edit source]
Australia and Czech Republic[edit | edit source]
Walker began playing hockey at age six and by thirteen he was in a league with players as old as twenty and able to outplay them. During the 2007 season he played in both the under-14 and under-16 leagues. During 14 U14 games he recorded 77 goals and 25 assists for 102 points, a record for the league; the second leading scorer had 70 points in 24 games. Walker had similar numbers in the U16 league; he scored 69 points in 16 games to again lead the league in scoring, with the second highest total being 53 points in 20 games.
As Walker was dominating the local competition, he began to look for other options. In 2007 his coach Ivan Manco, who came from Slovakia, arranged for Walker to tryout for HC Vítkovice in the Czech Republic, where Manco knew one of the coaches. Walker impressed the team enough to be given a place on their under-18 junior team. In 2009–10 he recorded 42 points in 28 games for the U18 team and earned a chance to play for the U20 team. He also returned to Australia during the Czech offseason and played for the Sydney Ice Dogs of the Australian Ice Hockey League.
On 9 October 2011, Walker made his debut for the senior HC Vítkovice club in the Czech Extraliga, making him the first Australian to play professionally in Europe; he was also the youngest player in the Extraliga. HC Vítkovice was invited to the 2011 Spengler Cup and in their first game against Canada Walker scored the only goal for Vítkovice. He became the youngest player to score in Spengler Cup history and was named player of the game for Vítkovice. With the conclusion of the 2011–12 Czech Extraliga season, HC Vítkovice loaned Walker to HC Olomouc of the 1. národní hokejová liga, the second-highest league in the Czech Republic, on 20 February 2012. Walker played 34 games in his first season in the Extraliga, scoring four goals and five assists for nine points. He played a further two games with HC Olomouc, recording an assist.
As a result of his play in the Extraliga, Walker began to be noticed by the National Hockey League (NHL). In the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's January 2012 list of draft prospects, Walker was listed as the 21st best European-based skater for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the second highest Czech-based player on the list. Walker was listed as the 25th best European skater in the NHL's final list of prospects for the 2012 Entry Draft. He was not selected in the Entry Draft, but was invited to participate in the Washington Capitals development camp in July; however NHL rules required that Walker participate in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft before he was able to sign with any team.
North America[edit | edit source]
During the 2012–13 season Walker appeared in twenty games with HC Vítkovice and recorded one assist; he was loaned to Hokej Šumperk 2003 for three games, where he also had one assist. After six years in the Czech Republic, Walker signed a contract on 8 January 2013 with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League, a junior ice hockey league in the United States. He made his debut for the team on 11 January against the Chicago Steel, recording a goal. After four games with the Phantoms, in which he recorded six points, Walker was named to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on 23 January 2013; he replaced his teammate, who was ill. Walker played 29 games for the Phantoms during the regular season and recorded 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists). His 20 assists were good enough for fifth on the team, even though Walker only joined the team midway through the season. His season ended early due to an injury suffered in a game on 5 April where Walker broke a bone in his neck as a result of a hit from behind; as a result he missed all the Phantoms playoff games.
Upon the conclusion of the season Walker returned to the Czech Republic to train, before heading back to Australia. In July he was invited to once again attend the Capitals development camp, scheduled for September. He performed well enough to remain with the team and attend their full training camp as one of 40 players. However, due to an overlooked rule, the Capitals were unable to sign Walker; as he had started the 2012–13 season in Europe and then moved to North America, and was under 20 years old, he would have to enter the 2014 NHL Entry Draft before being allowed to sign an NHL contract. Instead, on 24 September Walker signed a contract with the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears. He made his debut for the Bears on 5 October 2013 against the Adirondack Phantoms, becoming the first Australian to play in the AHL. During Walker's third game with the Bears, on October 27 against the Norfolk Admirals, he scored his first goal and recorded his first professional fight.
The 2014 NHL Entry Draft was the third and final NHL draft that Walker was eligible for, and he was selected in the third round, 89th overall, by the Capitals. In doing so, Walker became the first Australian to be selected in an NHL draft. On 25 July 2014, Walker was signed to a three-year entry-level contract with the Capitals. Partway through the 2014–2015 season Walker was reassigned to the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. After a two-game stint with the Stingrays, where he recorded two points, Walker was brought back to Hershey. Reassigned to South Carolina again in January, Walker was injured in a game on 28 January when he tore his ACL, ending his season. At the time of the injury Walker had appeared in 28 games for the Bears, where he scored 4 points, and a further 6 games for the Stingrays, also recording 4 points. His production improved in 2015–16, as he finished with 17 goals and 41 points for the Bears. Walker was awarded the Bears' team awards for the Most Improved Player, Unsung Hero, and was also named the team's Man of the Year for his community involvement. He played 58 games for Hershey in 2016–17, recording 23 points and was re-signed by the Capitals to a two-year contract after the season finished.
Walker made the Capitals' opening night roster for the 2017–18 season, and made his NHL debut on 7 October, the Capitals' home opener against the Montreal Canadiens. Walker scored his first NHL goal that night; it was initially thought that the goal was scored by Devante Smith-Pelly, but upon further review, Smith-Pelly's shot had been deflected by Walker. His parents and brother flew in from Australia to witness his debut. On 30 November, Walker was put on waivers by the Capitals. The next day he was claimed by the Edmonton Oilers. On 19 December, the Oilers placed Walker on waivers, and was then re-claimed off waivers by the Capitals the day after. Walker made his playoff debut during Game six of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins, becoming the first Australian to play and record a point in the NHL playoffs. Walker would later go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Capitals, to become the first Welsh or Australian hockey player to win the Stanley Cup. However, Walker did not qualify to have his name on the trophy as he did not meet the games-played requirement.
After six seasons within the Capitals organization, Walker left as a free agent to sign on a one-year, two-way contract with the St. Louis Blues on 1 July 2019. Walker again spent most of the season in the AHL (this time with the San Antonio Rampage), but also played in five NHL games, scoring his first goal as a Blue on 30 November against the Pittsburgh Penguins and an assist against the Chicago Blackhawks three days later. He was returned to the AHL on 12 December.
International play[edit | edit source]
|Competitor for Australia|
|Ice Hockey World Championships|
|Gold||2011 Melbourne||Division II Group A|
Welsh born Walker first played for the Australian men's senior team at the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II Group A tournament which was held in Melbourne, Australia. Australia won the tournament and was promoted to Division I Group B for the 2012 World Championships. Walker finished the tournament with four goals and two assists for six points, tied for third overall. He was also recognised by the tournament coaches as the best player on the Australian team.
Walker represented Australia again at the 2012 World Championships. Playing in Division IB, Australia finished last in the group and was relegated to Division IIA for 2013. Walker scored two goals during the tournament.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Walker was born in Cardiff, Wales to Wayne and Ceri; he also has an older brother, Ryan. When Walker was two, his family moved to Sydney, Australia where he started at Kirrawee High School. Wayne played rugby league, leading to Nathan playing for the Cronulla Sharks junior team until the age of 15. Ryan, his older brother, also played hockey representing Australia in the national under-18 squad. Ryan had to quit hockey after he was injured during a game in the United States. While in the Czech Republic Walker learned to speak Czech, Slovak, and some Russian.
Walker first played ice hockey in Australia at the age of six, after watching his older brother Ryan play. Due to a lack of ice hockey broadcasting in Australia, Walker was also inspired after watching The Mighty Ducks film series and Mystery, Alaska, all of which are based around ice hockey. A trip to Toronto for a hockey tournament further helped develop his interest in the game, as both Walker and his brother visited the Hockey Hall of Fame and purchased DVDs of the sport.
Career statistics[edit | edit source]
Regular season and playoffs[edit | edit source]
|2007–08||HC Vítkovice Steel U18||Czech-U18||1||0||0||0||2||—||—||—||—||—|
|2008–09||HC Vítkovice Steel U18||Czech-U18||33||6||9||15||16||5||1||0||1||4|
|2009–10||HC Vítkovice Steel U18||Czech-U18||28||22||20||42||47||2||2||2||4||4|
|2009–10||HC Vítkovice Steel U20||Czech-U20||23||5||5||10||16||1||0||0||0||0|
|2010||Sydney Ice Dogs||AIHL||4||0||1||1||0||—||—||—||—||—|
|2010–11||HC Vítkovice Steel U18||Czech-U18||10||4||10||14||22||—||—||—||—||—|
|2010–11||HC Vítkovice Steel U20||Czech-U20||35||20||20||40||20||—||—||—||—||—|
|2011||Sydney Ice Dogs||AIHL||3||1||1||2||6||—||—||—||—||—|
|2011–12||HC Vítkovice Steel U18||Czech-U18||—||—||—||—||—||3||4||1||5||14|
|2011–12||HC Vítkovice Steel U20||Czech-U20||14||14||6||20||16||3||0||1||1||0|
|2011–12||HC Vítkovice Steel||ELH||34||4||5||9||8||1||0||0||0||2|
|2012–13||HC Vítkovice Steel U20||Czech-U20||13||12||12||24||42||—||—||—||—||—|
|2012–13||HC Vítkovice Steel||ELH||20||0||1||1||29||—||—||—||—||—|
|2012–13||Hokej Šumperk 2003||Czech.1||3||0||1||1||2||—||—||—||—||—|
|2014–15||South Carolina Stingrays||ECHL||6||2||2||4||0||—||—||—||—||—|
|2019–20||San Antonio Rampage||AHL||46||19||13||32||29||—||—||—||—||—|
|2019–20||St. Louis Blues||NHL||5||1||1||2||4||—||—||—||—||—|
International[edit | edit source]
|2011||Australia||WC (Div II)||4||4||2||6||4|
|2012||Australia||WC (Div IB)||5||2||0||2||4|
Awards and honours[edit | edit source]
|Stanley Cup (Washington Capitals)||2018|||
References[edit | edit source]
- Logan, Bart (11 February 2013). Aussie Walker Pursues NHL Dream In Youngstown. USHL.com.
- Lambert, Peter (22 June 2012). Aussie Teen Hopeful for NHL Draft. TheAIHL.com.
- Allen, Trevor (13 April 2012). A Mighty Roo. IIHF.com.
- HC Vítkovice (27 December 2011). Nejmladší střelec historie Spengler Cupu Nathan Walker (Czech). HC-Vitkovice.cz.
- HC Olomouc (20 February 2012). Za Olomouc nastoupí australský útočník Walker (Czech). HC-Olomouc.cz.
- NHL Central Scouting Bureau (11 January 2012). European Skaters Midterm Rankings. National Hockey League.
- NHL Central Scouting Bureau (9 April 2012). European Skaters Final Rankings. National Hockey League.
- Vrábel, Tomáš. "Nadějný Australan Walker z Vítkovic nakoukl do NHL", Lidové noviny, 18 July 2012. (Czech)
- Jáchim, Václav (8 January 2013). Australan Nathan Walker opouští Vítkovice, vysněné NHL se chce přiblížit v americké juniorce (Czech). Hokej.cz.
- Youngstown Phantoms (8 January 2013). Phantoms Add Forward Nathan Walker To Roster. YoungstownPhantoms.com.
- Youngstown Phantoms (11 January 2013). Evancho's 3rd-Period Goal Propels Phantoms Past Steel. YoungstownPhantoms.com.
- Williams, Tom. "Aussie Walker boosts scoring", The Vindicator, 1 February 2013.
- Wagner, Matt. "Phantoms' Walker going where no Aussie's gone before", Tribune Chronicle, 12 April 2013.
- Williams, Tom. "Phantoms hope to steal Gamblers' advantage", The Vindicator, 17 April 2013.
- Morreale, Mike G. (29 July 2013). Aussie Walker gets invite to Capitals rookie camp. National Hockey League.
- Morreale, Mike G. (17 September 2013). Walker trying to become first Australian in NHL. National Hockey League.
- Higgins, Ben. "Nathan Walker misses out on NHL contract but signs with AHL team Hershey Bears", Herald Sun, 23 September 2013.
- Hershey Bears (24 September 2013). Bears Sign Forward Nathan Walker. HersheyBears.com.
- Hershey Bears (7 October 2013). Hershey Bears Weekly Release - Week 1. HersheyBears.com.
- Nathan Walker becomes first Australian to score in American Hockey League. ABC News (29 October 2013).
- Sanful, John (29 June 2014). Teams stockpile talent. IIHF.com.
- Capitals sign Nathan Walker. Washington Capitals (25 July 2014).
- Zakrzewski, Joseph (12 December 2014). First NHL-Drafted Australian Nathan Walker and Forward Caleb Herbert Assigned to Stingrays. Stingrayshockey.com.
- Hershey Bears (16 December 2014). Nathan Walker reassigned to Hershey. HersheyBears.com.
- Leone, Tim. "Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann on Nathan Walker's season-ending injury: 'I feel terrible for the kid'", The Patriot-News, 3 February 2015.
- Khurshudyan, Isabelle. "Prospect Nathan Walker 'seems to be a little bit more ready to play' in the NHL", The Washington Post, 1 June 2016.
- Freeman, Kevin. "Caps' goalie prospect Vanecek helps the Hershey Bears win regular-season finale in a shootout, 2-1", LNP, 17 April 2016.
- Washington Capitals (2 June 2017). Capitals Re-sign Nathan Walker. National Hockey League.
- Vogel, Mike (8 October 2017). Walker Set to Make NHL History in D.C.. National Hockey League.
- O'Leary, Dan (8 October 2017). Walker's family witnesses history, Capitals fans go wild for Australian. National Hockey League.
- Vogel, Mike (30 November 2017). #CapsKings Skate Shavings: Five Straight In The District. National Hockey League.
- RELEASE: Oilers Claim Nathan Walker; Place Pakarinen on Waivers. National Hockey League (1 December 2017).
- RELEASE: Oilers make roster changes. National Hockey League (19 December 2017).
- Khurshudyan, Isabelle (20 December 2017). Capitals re-claim Aussie forward Nathan Walker off waivers.
- Rollins, Khadrice (7 May 2018). Capitals Wing Nathan Walker Became First Australian Player to Appear in Playoff Game.
- Aykroyd, Lucas (8 June 2018). Washington's wait is over. IIHF.com.
- Blues agree to two-way contract with six players. St. Louis Blues (1 July 2019).
- Nathan Walker breaks drought with ‘big goal’ for St. Louis Blues (1 December 2019).
- Thomas, Jim (3 December 2019). Allen has 38 saves as Blues blank Blackhawks.
- @CF_Transactions (12 December 2019). NHL → Minors Nathan Walker (LW).
- IIHF (2011). 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II Group A. International Ice Hockey Federation.
- IIHF (10 April 2011). 2011 IIHF World Championship Div IIA Scoring Leaders. IIHF.com.
- IIHF (10 April 2011). 2011 IIHF World Championship Div IIA Best Players of Each Team Selected by Coaches. IIHF.com.
- Statistics. IIHF.com.
- IIHF (21 April 2012). Player Statistics by Team - Australia. IIHF.com.
- Gulitti, Tom (7 October 2017). Walker of Capitals set to become NHL's first Australian player. NHL.colm.
- Baum, Greg. "The iceman cometh", The Age, 9 April 2011.
- Baum, Greg. "Teen stays cool in bid for ice dream", The Age, 22 June 2012.
- "Welsh-born Australian ice hockey player Nathan Walker chases NHL dream", Herald Sun, 13 February 2013.
- The Washington Capitals, after years of frustration, win the Stanley Cup (7 June 2018).