Walker, first Australian ever drafted, signs with Capitals


Nathan Walker has taken another step forward in his journey to make the NHL from the unusual starting point of Australia. The Washington Capitals have signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract, per the Monumental Network.

The 20-year-old forward became the first Australian ever drafted when Washington took him with the 89th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Setting him apart further is the fact that he already had AHL experience before he was ever drafted.

Walker joined the Capitals’ AHL affiliates, the Hershey Bears, for the 2013-14 campaign and had five goals and 11 points in 43 games. In addition to playing for their AHL team, Walker was already well known within the Capitals organization as he had been attending their development camps and participated in their 2013 training camp.

In order to make sure he remained part of the organization, the Capitals sent the 104th and 118th picks to the New York Rangers in exchange for the third-round selection.

“He might have [been available later], but once again you take a chance he’s not going to be there,” assistant GM Ross Mahoney said told the Washington Post. “We’d rather do what we have to do in order to move up and make sure we get the player we want rather than sit back and hope that player’s still there.”

Walker found out about hockey when he was around four by watching “The Mighty Ducks” film and left for the Czech Republic at 13 where he lived with a host family so that he could pursue his dream.

Habs claim Byron off waivers from Flames

Paul Byron
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Montreal added some forward depth on Tuesday, acquiring diminutive forward Paul Byron off waivers from Calgary.

Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.

(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)

Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.

Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.