Sometimes, big moments just take a while. Just ask Nathan Walker.
Seven years after being selected 89th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, the journeyman St. Louis Blues winger scored three goals in a game against Detroit last night. He had three total goals in the big leagues before the puck dropped at The Enterprise Center.
When the second goal went in, Walker’s smile beamed so wide across the ice, that every problem and struggle with the team disappeared for a few seconds. By the time the third and final score of the night for the 27-year-old went in, the experience had become sacred. His first night as an official player on the Blues roster was a gem.
Even if he will soon travel back up to Springfield when the Blues’ injury room settles down, Walker can say that he helped the team during a pivotal time. Two months into the season, one that has become a sprint due to the improbable Olympics, the 6-2 win gave the team a much-needed second win in a row. Not yet a winning streak, but still promising. Something to build on.
The thing about Walker is that his career choice is the least interesting thing about him. With no offense to any young boy or girl who aspires to play hockey, there’s something unique about this guy. Born in Wales and raised in Australia, Walker will take some history with him back to the minor when that call comes.
After becoming the first Australian player in the league back in the NHL, Thursday gave him the trophy labeled, “first Australian to score a hat trick in the NHL.” With over 350 games in the AHL and less than 30 in the NHL, Walker will take the good night and continue to fight for playing time.
Walker’s opportunity this week came out of dire team necessity, one that required some league rule theatrics to make happen. But the scrappy young winger, who looks like a disheveled Robert Pattinson who is as tall as Tom Cruise, will find his way back.
He’s waited too long to just make a small dent and leave. In a season that featured a quick start and an even quicker collapse, the Blues need all the Nathan Walkers they can find. Along with goaltender Charlie Lindgren’s timely performance in net, the Blues are basically scraping the bottom of the peanut jar and finding rewards.
A third round pick who had two extremely small stints in Washington before finding some success as an extra man with St. Louis two years ago, Walker has bigger goals than just being the first Australian to do this or that in the NHL. He wants another hat trick.
Saturday night against Montreal could be his next opportunity. Imaging Walker putting up back-to-back hat tricks at home, with the second one coming against former Blue Jake Allen. Only in hockey.