Top coach says Aussie Nathan Walker is headed for NHL
AUSTRALIAN Nathan Walker's rise to the fringes of the NHL has been compared to that of a Hollywood movie - by none other than Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz.
Walker became the first man from Down Under to be drafted into the league, by the Caps, earlier this year.
The forward stunned ice hockey fans last month during the pre-season, delivering a stinging hip-check on the Buffalo Sabres' Vaclav Karabacek, which turned out to be a huge hit on social media.
That wasn't the only thing that impressed Trotz leading up to the regular season.
Walker's work ethic, honed in the Czech Republic after making his debut for the senior HC Vítkovice team at just 17, also had Trotz looking on in awe.
"Nate has a very interesting story, a great story - they'll probably make a movie about it someday," Trotz said.
"I really liked him at training camp. This guy is a focused guy who wants to get better, and he's doing it very untraditionally coming from Australia, and then going to the Czech Republic.
"Then he made his way over to North America to play in the American League."
Walker, 20, is now biding his time for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League.
And Trotz believes it's only a matter of time before he becomes an NHL regular.
That is, if he keeps believing in Hollywood fairytales.
"We had to draft him because he's still young enough. He's got a lot of good qualities - determination, strength, speed," Trotz said.
"He's got to work on his production at the American League level now, and I think he's going to be one of those guys that's going to find a way to play (in the NHL)."
Walker, too, believes in Hollywood fairytales.
He was inspired to become a professional ice hockey player after watching the Mighty Ducks film series, and Mystery Alaska.
Walker has also impressed the coaching staff at the Bears, with Hershey head coach Troy Mann saying recently the Sydney-raised youngster possesses plenty of speed and energy.
The Capitals have won their past two games - against Chicago and Carolina - after a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Calgary Flames.
They are sitting fourth in the Metropolitan division, with their next game at home to Columbus on Wednesday morning (AEST).