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Walker Fighting To Make It Close To Home

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

It's a dream for many young hockey players to grow up and wear the sweater of their hometown team.

Jack Walker may not say he's currently living a dream, but he does crack a smile when the conversation shifts to his spot at Minnesota Wild training camp.

"I always went to the games, and always had family nights here," Walker said. "There are a lot of memories, just meeting players, and watching guys like Richard Park, who's a coach now. It's just pretty cool."

Walker is an Edina native. Beginning with the Wild's Development Camp in July, continuing at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., and extending into training camp this week, Walker is getting a chance to wear a Wild jersey and fight for a spot in his hometown organization.

"The [Traverse City] tournament was just all about opportunity, and obviously I'm a free agent," said Walker, who has spent the past three seasons playing for the Victoria Royals in the Western Hockey League. " It was just giving me a chance to show what kind of player I can be, and I was fortunate enough to play with a pretty good line there."

Walker said that kind of player is one who uses his speed to get up-and-down the ice. He also said he likes to take the puck to the net and make plays.

In Traverse City, Walker tied for the team-lead with two other forwards, scoring two goals in three games. Walker has spent time over his hockey career playing on defense also, and said the experience at each end of the ice has made him better rounded.

"It helps my versatility as a player, and I think it gives me an advantage in the defensive zone," Walker said. "Just knowing what to do, and knowing where to be for the defensemen. I think it's helped me a lot."

Like many of the younger players, Walker said he is doing everything he can to be a student at training camp, absorbing any information he can.

"You can learn a lot by watching, and just being around them, and just trying to soak up as much information as you can," Walker said.

He's also seen players from the WHL matriculate to the NHL, and said that is important as he himself attempts to make the jump.

"Every year there are guys that are with teams [in the WHL] that are being drafted or signed," Walker said. "This will be my fourth year now, so a lot of guys have come and gone. I've seen a lot of faces, and have a really good coach there as well, so there's a lot of good learning experiences there."

And for Walker, the experience of training camp — however it ends — will strike a more personal chord.

"You grew up watching the Minnesota Wild as a kid, and just being able to wear the jersey is an unbelievable experience," Walker said. "Hopefully I can stay with this organization moving forward."

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