St. Cloud, MN – St. Cloud State University recruit Nolan Walker has covered a lot of ground in his young hockey career. The 19 year-old Anchorage, Alaska native has taken his skill set to Culver, Indiana for three seasons prior to landing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the 2017-18 season. That prepped him for his next move to St. Cloud, MN to continue his hockey career with Brett Larson’s Huskies of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. One of the top offensive threats in the USHL this past season, Walker is described by some as the top offensive player in the league when it comes to his overall skill level.
Walker burned up the Alaska All Stars AA and AAA programs prior to enrolling at the prestigious Culver Military Academy where he played three years of prep hockey graduating in 2017. In his three seasons, Walker put up 65 goals and 89 assists for 154 points in 116 games. Drafted by the Sioux Falls Stampede as the 57th pick in the fourth round of the 2016 USHL Phase II draft, Walker again proved his offensive skills in a highly defensive league scoring 21 goals and adding 29 assists for 50 points in 55 games to lead his squad in 2017-18. The 50 points also placed him 19th in regular season scoring in the league. Walker was also chosen alongside future SCSU teammates, Sam Hentges, Nick Perbix and Brendan Bushy to compete for Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge that took place in Turo, Nova Scotia December 10-16, 2017.
The 5′ 10″ 170 right-handed shooting Walker originally committed to his hometown UAA Seawolves of the WCHA in 2015 but told the St. Cloud Times in a 2016 interview “as time went on I decided I wanted to have a different experience, meet different people and explore different options.” That led to a commitment to the Huskies who had shown interest prior to his verbal to the Seawolves. Did the fact that former Culver graduate, top three Hobey Baker candidate and NHLer Nic Dowd who had a stellar four-year career at SCSU have any influence on his decision? He told the Times “I’ve asked a lot about him, everyone says he was a great kid and I know he started at the bottom of Culver from the varsity B team and worked up to the prep. He scored the game-winner in the NCAA tournament) in overtime against Notre Dame. I remember it pretty well”.
A dynamic forward with excellent speed Walker’s game probably resembles that of former Husky Mikey Eyssimont although he’s probably more generous with the puck. He told the Times ” I love to make plays and make players around me better, but I do score some goals. Playmaking is my great ability and I’m told I have good hockey sense.” His former coach at Culver Steve Palmer told the Times “He has tremendous vision and playmaking ability. What he’s able to do better than most is be very deceptive with his body. He understands how to get someone leaning one way and go the other way using his edges.His head is always up , looking for plays and he’s doing it all at full speed.”
Despite two-thirds of the SCSU coaching staff departing, Walkers commitment to the Huskies has not changed. He told me “I did meet with the whole staff and I couldn’t be more excited to start my journey at St. Cloud. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Larson and St. Cloud. I can’t wait to get going. I get there on June 11 to meet the other recruits and register for classes.” For Walker, the timing couldn’t be better as the Huskies travel to Alaska, his home state for a series with the Alaska Nanooks on October 12 and 13. It’ll give Walker an opportunity to play in front of family and friends. He stated “It looks like a great schedule. I really think we have a legit shot at winning at natty championship.” As far as personal goals he is aware that the Huskies had three players chosen to the NCHC all-rookie team in 2017-18. He commented “(its) one of my goals definitely. I sure hope I can do that”.
With the departure of Mikey Eyssimont it certainly fills a void to have a player like Walker join the squad. Much like Blake Lizotte, Easton Brodzinski and Kevin Fitzgerald, Walker will be another forward that should be an impact player in his first season. With his speed he should thrive on the larger ice surface in St. Cloud and with the supporting cast and his play making ability shouldn’t miss a beat in his ability to pile up points as a Husky.
Former Husky captain Nic Dowd was a trailblazer. With the unlikely prospects of being an NCAA Division I hockey player from Huntsville, Alabama and certainly a long-shot to become an NHLer, Dowd went from prep school to the NAHL, the USHL and ultimately Division I hockey. He’s since played 131 games in the NHL. Thus, you can’t blame one for trying to emulate the success of a player like Dowd. Walker told me “he’s always been someone I’ve looked up to”. Now it’s time for Walker to blaze his own trail starting with the Huskies in 2018-19.
Highlight video of Nolan Walker with the Sioux Falls Stampede: