Its safe to say that there was a lot of hype when Nathan Walker or “stormy” as he is affectionately known, made his NHL debut on October 7th for the Washington Capitals. There were stadium visits from the Australian Ambassador and a congratulatory phone call from the Australian Prime Minister.  Many believed the first Australian in the NHL would have a pretty promising season ahead. However, since then he has completely fallen off the radar.

There has been very little said about Nathan Walker recently. He has been scratched a lot and played only seven games this season. His last game was against the Colorado Avalanche on November 16Overall this season, he has averaged just over nine minutes of ice time in that time. He has a goal and four minutes in penalties.

Walker is trying to prove he can conform to the Capitals hard-hitting, fiery style. Watching him play there is no question that he has speed and skill. In his first four games, Walker owned a shot-attempt percentage of 63.7 percent, which is the best on the team. He is not lacking in grit and determination either. Previously having to battle injuries and having to deal with constant movement in leagues and different countries before coming to the NHL.

Tough At The Top

In a pre-match media interview for #CapsFightCancer, when asked about not playing WalkerBarry Trotz stated:

“Sometimes it’s just a coach’s decision, it’s not quite your time or we don’t have a full-time role for you. I just think with him, it’s staying positive, believing in himself, and I think that’ll be easy for him because there’s no way he would ever be in the position he is right now without believing in his abilities and his determination. So as long as he has that part of his DNA, I think he’s going to be fine.” ­

Although in the same interview his stated rationale for not playing Walker was due to lack of penalty kill experience. But realistically, its more obvious that Walker lacks the size and strength (5’8″ and 186 lbs) to make an impact on competitors such as Jakub Vrana (6’0″ and 197 lbs). He will have to continue to work on his strength to position himself on the roster.

And even if he does this, the Caps have a huge list of star-studded names to compete with such as Brett Connolly and Alex Ovechkin. Does he really have a chance? Capitals were plagued with injuries early in the season, but Nathan Walker was still not given the opportunity to leave his mark and become a more consistent member of the line-up.

Options

Could this fourth line player be heading back to the AHL? As the 89th overall draft pick in the 2014 draft, he is at risk of following in the footsteps of players such as Linus Nasan and Aleksi Saarela who both failed to develop into NHL players. Walker is on a two-way contract and is no stranger to the Hershey Bears either. Walker has spent the better part of four seasons in Hershey (With an ECHL season in-between) racking up a total 202 games played, 34 goals and 45 assists. The other option is to simply just stick it out and hope his chance comes soon.

Having shown such promise on the occasions he has played and having a taste of playing with the big team, it is doubtful he will want to go back to the AHL. Unfortunately, he may not have a choice.

Hope for the Future

Here’s hoping we will see him at the Capitals next game at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. However, being second in the Pacific division and ahead of the Capitals on points, Trotz will be putting what he considers his best team out there. Unless there are injuries or poor play, it is likely that Walker will continue to enjoy the view from the press box.

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