Breaking News Bar
updated: 10/6/2017 2:59 PM

Caps' Walker set to become first Australian to play in NHL

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2016, file photo, Washington Capitals' Nathan Walker (79) controls the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, in Washington. Walker is set to become the first Australian player to dress in an NHL game when he makes his debut Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

    FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2016, file photo, Washington Capitals' Nathan Walker (79) controls the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, in Washington. Walker is set to become the first Australian player to dress in an NHL game when he makes his debut Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens.
    Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Capitals' Nathan Walker practices in Arlington, Va. Walker is set to become the first Australian player to dress in an NHL game when he makes his debut Saturday night, Oct. 7, 2017, against the Montreal Canadiens.

    FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2017, file photo, Washington Capitals' Nathan Walker practices in Arlington, Va. Walker is set to become the first Australian player to dress in an NHL game when he makes his debut Saturday night, Oct. 7, 2017, against the Montreal Canadiens.
    Associated Press

 
 

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Nathan Walker will become the first Australian player to dress in an NHL game when he makes his debut Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

Walker grew up in Sydney after he and his family emigrated from the United Kingdom when he was 2. After his brother Ryan was exposed to the sport, it became clear Nathan had pro potential and he moved to the Czech Republic at age 13 to play minor and then junior hockey.

"It definitely made me a little bit more independent earlier on," Walker said. "I think it just made me mature quicker."

On the ice, Walker said practicing twice a day with HC Vitkovice's under-18 and under-20 teams helped his game mature.

"It's definitely a big jump," Walker said. "You've got a lot more time to work on your skills while you're younger."

Walker has played just seven games in the Australian Ice Hockey League back home. Internationally, he had six points in four games as Australia won the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Division II in 2011 and then two assists the next year in the IIHF World Championship Division I.

Walker said he hasn't thought much about being the first Australian to play in the NHL.

"At the end of the day, I'm just another guy on the team, another guy in the league, another guy playing the sport we all love," Walker said.

Walker is no stranger to NHL history. After playing for the United States Hockey League's Youngstown Phantoms and American Hockey League's Hershey Bears, Walker became the first Australian selected in the NHL draft when the Capitals took him in the third round in 2014.

Washington general manager Brian MacLellan has noticed significant strides in Walker's game since then.

"He's developed into a good penalty killer," MacLellan said. "We've always liked his speed and his compete level, those were the two things that we really liked about him. He just continues to become a better player - better positionally, he reads the game better, more intelligent on his reads - instead of being a pure energy player."

___

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.