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Australian NHL prospect Nathan Walker has been signed to the Capitals’ developmental affiliate team, the Hershey Bears, on a one-year deal.
The news was initially reported by the Washington Posts’ Katie Carrera:
#Caps General Manager George McPhee told those at his panel discussion Nathan Walker has signed a one-year AHL deal with Hershey.
— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) September 21, 2013
The signing comes after a fantastic preseason performance from Walker, who managed one goal and one assist in his limited time on the ice.
Walker came to the Capitals as an undrafted free agent after playing for the USHL team Youngstown Phantoms for half a year. Before then he had developed his skills in Europe, moving to the Czech Republic from Australia in 2007.
In 29 games with the Phantoms he amassed 27 points, including 20 assists and 7 goals, a very impressive effort.
Walker has also represented Australia, most recently in the in 2012 World Championships.
The signing with the Bears helps solidify his place in the Washington Capitals organisation, as they were reportedly unable to sign him directly to their NHL squad thanks to the “Tomas Hyka Rule” that stops the 19-year-old from joining the NHL due to his playing in Europe last year. (See the link for more information on the troublesome rule.)
Now, rather than remaining with the Phantoms, Walker will play for the Bears for the season, after which hopefully he will find himself on the Capitals squad this time next year.
As the Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks points out, there is a chance he could be picked up by another team in next year’s draft.
While I’d be disappointed as a Capitals fan, I’d get over it. As we would still have our first ever Australian in the NHL (regular season).
We’ll be keeping a close eye on Walker and his efforts with the Bears this season.