HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Last season couldn't have started any better for St. Louis Blues defenseman prospect Jake Walman.
A third-round pick (No. 82) by the Blues in the 2014 NHL Draft, Walman, 20, had 13 goals and 15 assists in 27 games for Providence College. His eight power-play goals and four game-winning goals led NCAA defensemen, his 13 goals tied for the lead and he was the only college defenseman with a hat trick. They were eye-opening numbers that garnered attention from the United States and Canada for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship since Walman, who was born in Toronto, has dual citizenship.
But a promising season was derailed Dec. 5 by a shoulder injury that season-ending required surgery, which Walman still is recovering from.
"It's tough," Walman said. "Any injury you've got to go through, it's a process. ... Any player that goes through adversity, whether it's an injury or something happens off ice, it's something you've got to go through and every player has to deal with it.
"It's obviously frustrating because my biggest thing was playing in that tournament [WJC]. It's obviously a tournament you grow up watching as a kid. The opportunity was there; it just happened at the wrong time. It's unfortunate, but again, it's adversity and it's something that's going to make me stronger."
Walman (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) was unable to participate in Blues development camp, which ran July 5-8, but was on hand to continue his rehab.
He describes himself as a player who models his game after defensemen Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Drew Doughty, of the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues had hoped he'd be ready to turn pro by now, but because of the injury he'll return to Providence for his junior season. It was a mutual decision by the Blues and Walman.
"The shoulder injury set him back time-wise for when he turns pro because I think he had a good year last year," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said. "I think he would have turned pro. But in saying that, if he feels that shoulder injury's set him back, he needs to go back for another year and re-establish himself.
"He's a confident young man and he really thrives on having the puck on his stick making plays. He wants to be that guy to make a difference. He's always trying to win the game, not just always trying to stay within the games. He moves the puck very well and he shoots the puck through traffic exceptionally well. The art used to be blocking the shot; now the art is getting the shot through. The games I saw, he'd get 10 to 12 shots through to the net. He had a ton of confidence. I think he had 12 goals at the time the first 14 or 15 games. His name was being thrown around for Hobey Baker [Award]. It was a good situation for him and they were just coming off a national championship. He was pretty excited about his season and with the World Junior coming up. And all of the sudden to have it all disintegrate because of a shoulder injury, it's tough."
Walman is a couple weeks from skating and being ready for this season. He said he wants to pick up where he left off prior to the injury.
If he can do that, Blues fans should expect Walman's name to pop up in St. Louis in the near future.
"I always had the goal [of reaching the NHL] in my mind," Walman said. "... Talking to the coaches here and the motivation these guys have for me, it kind of pushes me.
"My goal was always to make the NHL and be a good player in the NHL. But now that it's a reality, it's really eye-opening and I'm excited to try and get a spot here."