Nathan Walker is a first line winger for the Stanley Cup Champions.
He’s played just three games for St. Louis, but with a goal and an assist to his name, Walker is now also an important cog in his team.
Let that sink in for a moment, but also, what does that actually mean?
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The top line is reserved for the best players on a hockey team – they see the most ice and are crucial to the team’s success.
To play just two games after being elevated from the minors, to being inserted into the one of three forward positions on the first line is an unconventional move.
Let’s take a quick step back – Walker is the only Australian in history to play in the National Hockey League, those familiar with the 25-year-old from New South Wales will know he has ticked off plenty of other considerable achievements.
He won the Stanley Cup with Washington in the 2017/2018 season, having made his debut and scored a goal earlier that season.
He also scored a point in the playoffs, a primary assist which line-mate Alex Chiasson buried past Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray – sealing a crucial win in their playoff run.
Fast forward to a few days ago, and Walker finally got his call-up from the minor leagues to play an NHL game for his new team, St. Louis.
On November 29 he stuffed a puck into the net against Dallas – on his debut for the Blues – but the goal was ruled out for offside.
His parents told him not to worry, he’d just have to get one in his next game – he did, slapping a half-volley past Matt Murray of the Penguins to help the Blues to a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.
Walker was promoted mid game against the Pens to the top line and scored straight away, earning him a ‘first star’ for his performance, akin to three Brownlow votes.
So coach Craig Berube wasn’t going to mess with the formula – come the game against Chicago, Walker remained on the top line alongside Brayden Schenn and Jayden Schwarz.
“Walker can really skate, he gets on top of people. I think he’s going to be good for that line,” Berube said.
He set up a goal for Schenn with a nifty pass, logging 14:24 minutes in ice time.
Being a first liner is a huge step up for Walker – in his time at Washington he was used a depth player and had to fight for scraps with the fourth line.
He’s a role player, which means he can be plugged into any line with any of his teammates and do his job well. That’s what makes him such a beloved teammate and an important part of his club.
The fact that for virtually his whole career he’s represented a Stanley Cup contender shows you that he’s a valuable player.
For the first time, he’s got gun players alongside him on the ice, which means he should be able to add goals and assists to his arsenal of skills – something he’s already doing.
For a man familiar with breaking new ground, this is a whole new kettle of fish for our Aussie trailblazer.
You can catch Walker and the Blues take on Pittsburgh on ESPN2 on Thursday at 12pm AEDT.