Nathan Walker's dream of becoming the first Australian to play in the NHL, the pinnacle of professional ice hockey, has received a boost, with the former Sydney Ice Dog being invited to a Washington Capitals rookie camp.
Walker, 19, has been under consideration for the past two NHL drafts after impressing during his six seasons in the Czech Republic and a partial season with Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League in 2012-2013.
He attended a Washington development camp last year and obviously impressed Capitals scouts enough to be invited back for another tryout. After scoring 27 points in 29 games for the Phantoms, Walker was invited to an SHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Unfortunately his season came to an end prematurely due to a severe neck injury.
The feisty New South Welshman, was born in Wales, but lived in the west of Sydney from the age of two until he moved to the Czech Republic at 14 in a bid to further his hockey prospects, eventually playing for HC Vitkovice Steel in Ostrava.
Nicknamed "Stormy", the 177 centimetre-tall forward makes up in speed and aggression for what he lacks in stature.
"Walker is a great skater and works hard on every shift," NHL director of European scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com.
Walker is already a fixture on the Australian national team, despite making infrequent trips home due to his crowded hockey schedule. He was named Australia's best player at the 2012 World Championship Division IB tournament after scoring four goals and six points.
He played seven Australian Ice Hockey League games for the Sydney Ice Dogs, in 2009-2010, when he was just 16.
If Walker impresses at the rookie camp, he may be invited to join full training. His suitability for a full professional contract as a free agent would then be assessed.
If he is not picked up at this stage, Walker will aim to impress playing in professional leagues a rung below the NHL.
Nathan’s turn of good fortune has captured a lot of interest in the Northern Hemisphere. There were 107 comments on the nhl.com. story detailing his invitation, and it was the most shared NHL item on Facebook.
It had also garnered 5343 likes.