Washington Capitals prospect Nathan Walker has had a long road to chasing his dream of playing in the NHL. Daniel Winnik’s departure gives him a chance to prove he can play.
The NHL has never seen an Australian player. This might be changing very soon. The Washington Capitals will likely have to replace fourth line forward Daniel Winnik this offseason. Chances are, they’ll be looking within to replace him. Expect Australian forward and Hershey Bears fan favorite Nathan Walker to compete for the job.
He’s had a very curvy and bumpy road to his dream of playing in the NHL to this point. Walker initially played overseas before coming to North America in 2013. He got an invite to the Capitals training camp and earned himself a spot on the Hershey Bears.
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However, due to technicalities, Walker was still eligible for the NHL Draft. The Caps gave him a heck of a moment at the 2014 NHL Draft by selecting him in the fourth round.
Injures have been a curse to Walker so far. He’s had to overcome a torn ACL, among other injuries. However, when healthy, Walker’s proven to be a productive player. Over his past two AHL seasons, he has 28 goals and 64 points in 121 games. Walker would probably have earned a spot on most NHL rosters, even just for a cup of coffee.
However, the Caps, with their impressive forward depth, haven’t needed him yet. Should they lose Winnik in free agency, Walker has to be at the top of the list of internal replacements. The two share similarities.
Both Winnik and Walker are defensively responsible. Nathan has been trusted by the Bears to play during all situations. He’s also one of Hershey’s best penalty killers. Winnik and Walker both like to use their speed to generate rush attempts. They both play with a bit of grit in their game.
However, Walker has shown he has some offensive upside. In today’s NHL, you need to have 12 forwards who can get the puck in the net and contribute on offense. Walker has proven he can do this at the AHL level. He has very little left to prove in the AHL, other than perhaps his durability.
Walker is a restricted free agent, but expect the Capitals to bring him back. He should get a good chance of earning a roster spot. Granted, he shouldn’t be handed anything. Bringing in a veteran or two on a PTO might be a wise decision. However, considering what Walker has overcome just to make it this far, don’t count him out.