SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Youngstown Phantoms forward Nathan Walker’s time in the USHL has been cut short, but Walker probably won’t mind.
The Phantoms have announced that Walker has signed a professional contract with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.
A native of Sydney, Australia, he became the first USHL player to come from “Down Under” in January, when he played his first game for the Phantoms. Walker made an immediate impact in Youngstown, scoring a goal in his first shift Jan. 11 against the Chicago Steel.
The 5-8, 185 pound Walker went on to score seven goals for 27 points and 63 PIM in 29 games. He was selected to represent the Phantoms and the Eastern Conference at the 2013 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Muskegon, Mich. An injury cut his season short on April 5 and did not play for Youngstown in the playoffs.
It was Walker’s play with the Phantoms that attracted the attention of the Washington Capitals, which invited him to their main training camp this past off-season. In two pre-season contests, Walker assisted on two goals, including a goal scored by Tom Wilson on Sept. 17 that became a Top 10 play on ESPN’s Sportscenter.
“Youngstown was great to me – great hockey, great coaching and great teammates to play with last year,” Walker said. “If I didn’t make the move to Youngstown, I don’t think this would be possible at all.”
He came to the United States from HC Vitkovice of the Czech Republic, where he started last year.
With the move to the AHL, Walker becomes the first player from that franchise to make an immediate jump to the minor league’s highest level, the last step before playing in the NHL.
While calling Australia home, Walker has spent much of his hockey career overseas in the Czech Republic. The 19-year-old skater played six years in the HC Viktovice organization, starting in the Under-18 team, and working up to their professional team.
In another first, Walker is the first Aussie to play in the Czech Extraliga, one of Europe’s elite hockey leagues. He scored four goals for ten points and 37 penalty minutes in the 54 games over two seasons there.
Walker has represented his home country in the IIHF World Championship Division II tournament in 2011 and the Division IB tournament in 2012.
Youngstown coach Anthony Noreen said, “There are a number of guys you could point at over the last few years that you’d say were our prototype player; a guy who plays the game the exact way we want – hard and fast – and is a leader. Nathan, without a doubt, in the short time he was here established himself as one of those guys.”
STAMPEDE CLAIM BREY: The Sioux Falls Stampede made a big acquisition this week, claiming former Dubuque Fighting Saints goaltender Arthur Brey off waivers.
Brey was one of the last cuts for the defending Clark Cup champions before the regular season got underway. He helped the Saints to the Clark Cup last season and to a bronze medal finish in the Junior Club World Championships last month in Russia.
In 38 games last season, Brey forged a 24-8-4 record, a 2.22 goals-against-average, and a .904 save percentage. He was also a USHL Goaltender of the Week twice during last season in Dubuque.
In the playoffs, the native of Yorba Linda, Calif. was 9-1 with a stingy 1.65 GAA and a .935 save percentage.