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Aussie Walker gets invite to Capitals rookie camp

by Mike G. Morreale

The dream of becoming the first Australian to play in the NHL continues to motivate forward Nathan Walker.

Despite the fact he didn't hear his name announced for the second straight year at the NHL Draft in June, the 19-year-old will be given a chance to earn a professional contract in September.

Walker will be entering his first full season with the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League in 2013-14, unless he impresses the Washington Capitals enough during the organization's rookie camp in September.

Walker has been invited to the Capitals' camp with the possibility of receiving an added invite to the team's full training camp. The Capitals then would determine whether Walker deserves a professional contract at this stage in his career.

If the Capitals don't sign him, he'll have one more chance to be drafted, at the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia.

Walker joined the Phantoms in January 2013 after playing six seasons of junior and professional senior hockey in the Czech Republic. Born in Wales, his family moved to Sydney, Australia when he was 2 years old. To further his hockey career he moved to Ostrava, Czech Republic, and spent six years in the country playing for several clubs and among men.

He drew attention from scouts while playing in the top Czech professional league as a 16-year-old in 2011-12, with HC Vitkovice Steel in Ostrava. In parts of two seasons in the top Czech league, he had four goals and six assists in 54 games.

In 29 games with the Phantoms last season, Walker had seven goals, 27 points and a plus-5 rating to help the club overcome a 5-11-0 start to finish third in the USHL's Eastern Conference. He also earned a spot at the 2013 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon, Mich. His season ended April 5 when he injured his neck during a game against the United States National Team Development Program.

"Walker is a great skater and works hard on every shift," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told

With a 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame, Walker has earned the nickname "Stormy" for his aggressive and relentless puck pursuit each shift. He had been training in the Czech Republic early this summer before going home to Australia. He's expected to return to Youngstown next month to prepare for Capitals rookie camp.

He played for Australia in the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II tournament and finished second on the team with four goals in six games. The following year he played for Australia at the 2012 World Championship Division IB tournament and finished with four goals and six points. He was recognized by the tournament coaches as Australia's best player.


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