It’s just a matter of time before the first Australian drafted by an NHL team gets a chance to play in the big league. Nathan Walker was selected 89th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2014 draft and Friday signed a three-year entry-level contract.
“He’s probably still a couple of years away, but he’s on the right track,” said Capitals director, amateur scouting Ross Mahoney. “He’s one determined guy, I’ll tell you that. He’s had an incredible journey so far.”
Walker, 20, was born in Cardiff, Wales, and was two when his family moved to Sydney, Australia. Though hockey is a bottom rung sport in Australia, Walker became fascinated with the game at the age of six watching Hollywood moves Mystery, Alaska and The Mighty Ducks.
North American audiences haven’t seen much of Esa Lindell and if you ask the Swedes, they would have preferred not to have seen him at all this year.
Lindell, an offensive defenseman, scored thirty seconds into the gold medal game at the world juniors in Malmo, staking underdog Finland to a lead in a hotly-contested match that they would never trail.
Hard to believe one of the top defensemen taken in the 2014 draft was playing center just a couple years ago, but that’s the story with Marcus Pettersson. Taken 38th overall by Anaheim, the lanky Swede was just the seventh D-man drafted in his class, yet scouts have been swarming him all year thanks to his upside.
Minor ripples were made the other day when a Michigan news outlet reported that center Tye Felhaber was unlikely to report to the Saginaw Spirit, the Ontario League team that drafted the talented youngster 10th overall in the spring.
As I found out in talking to insiders, Felhaber didn’t just decide this; the team had quietly known for some time. But since it’s officially out there now, Felhaber becomes the third top-10 pick from the 2014 OHL draft to express reticence in joining the franchise that selected him.
Commitments tend to slow down a bit in the late spring and early summer, so I’ve put together a batch of pledges from recent months for another roundup of NCAA news. As per usual, these commitments were culled from College Hockey Inc. and the excellent page it maintains on the topic.
When the Vancouver Canucks tabbed defenseman Jordan Subban with the 115th overall pick in the 2013 draft, they knew they were getting a bundle of skill with great bloodlines. After all, older brothers Malcolm and P.K. were both in the game and P.K. had just won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top blueliner.
But along with sharing a position, Jordan also seems to have P.K.’s gift of gab, as evidenced by this recent video of the Belleville Bulls blueliner going through the paces at Canucks development camp with a hot mic on:
Yes, it’s July and yes, it was only a scrimmage, but do you like hockey or don’t ya? The Toronto Maple Leafs, like many NHL franchises, held their rookie development camp this week and the festivities ended with a scrimmage. Far from orthodox, the game featured a 15-minute period of 4-on-4 with players changing every 45 seconds, followed by a similar format but 3-on-3 (there was also a “normal” 15-minute period to begin with).
One player who looked pretty sharp was center Dakota Joshua. A member of the United States League’s Sioux Falls Stampede, the Dearborn, Mich., native was great on the forecheck, dogging defensemen and keeping plays alive in the corners.
“That helps me out a lot in the USHL, to make plays and help put points on the board by winning puck battles and finding the open teammate,” Joshua said.
The growing pivot will have an expanded role on the Stampede next season, as the team is losing a bunch of veterans. After that, he’ll head to Ohio State.
“It was a perfect overall fit for me,” he said. “It’s in the Big 10, which I felt was one of the best conferences in college hockey and it’s close to home. I know I’m going up against the best talent in America every night.”
Here’s who else stood out to me on the day:
When T.J. Oshie ended a classic Olympic showdown by outduelling the Russians in the shootout, he became an instant hero back in the United States. And while most of the host nation was crestfallen by his derring-do, Oshie had at least one Russian on his side: Maxim Letunov thought the American was great.
As luck would have it, Letunov was selected by Oshie’s NHL team, the St. Louis Blues, mere months later at the draft. He went later in the second round after the Blues had taken countryman Ivan Barbashev 33rd overall. Both players may be Russian, but they shatter stereotypes.