Finally, we can see the puck at the end of the hot, humid tunnel we call summer. With the NHL deep into training camps, the AHL is filling its rosters and prepping to kick off camps of its own.
On the same day the Hershey Bears announced their 2013 training camp schedule, a dozen players hit the ice at Giant Center. Last Friday, Derek Whitmore, Julien Brouillette, Peter LeBlanc, Chay Genoway, Patrick Wellar, Jamie Johnson, Brett Flemming, Matt Watkins, Brandon Segal, Nicolas Deschamps, Josh Brittain and goalie Brandon Anderson pulled on their skates to warm-up for the start of this week’s training camp.
The entire group, excluding Brittain, had participated in the Washington Capital’s training camp before being assigned to the Bears late last week or over the weekend. The Caps started their 2013-2014 training camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on September 12th, and assigned a handful of players to Hershey since then. Players at the Kettler Iceplex got a sneak peek of new Bears head coach Mike Haviland during on-ice practices. Haviland and Bears assistant coach Ryan Mougenel led a practice group that was numbered with Hershey players, including Jamie Johnson, Derek Whitmore, Matt Watkins and Chay Genoway.
“I really liked Whitmore and Watkins and Johnson,” Haviland said. “Those three guys looked pretty good today together in doing some of their line stuff. Genoway can really skate on the back end. I was pleasantly surprised with all four of those guys for me.”
Most recently, Jeff Taffe, Ryan Stoa, Casey Wellman and Nathan Walker were sent to the Hershey Bears on Saturday. While many of these players were expected to don the chocolate and white for the 2013-2014 season, Walker was a surprise pick from the Capital’s training camp.
For all those asking, Walker will report to Hershey camp. He is not under contract.
— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) September 21, 2013
Walker Hopes to be First Australian NHL Player
One of 40 forwards listed on the Capitals’ training camp roster, Walker, 19, is still unsigned but will report to Hershey for camp on Monday. The 5’10”, 185-pound Australian hopes to be the first Aussie to play in the NHL—a league dominated by players who typically hail from much colder climates with far less marsupials. Walker was expected to play for Youngstown in the USHL this season, but had a strong showing at Washington’s training camp as an unsigned invitee. Born in Great Britain, Walker’s family relocated to Australia when he was 2-years-old. Realizing his Australian home was dominated by soccer and surf, Walker made the move to icier climates to hone his hockey skills.
“When I was 13, that’s when I decided I really wanted to take a shot at this, so I went overseas [to the Czech Republic] to learn and play the game,” Walker said.
Walker, nicknamed Stormy for his aggressive playing style, spent six seasons developing his game in the Czech Republic. Before joining the Youngstown Phantoms in January 2013, Walker played the past two seasons with HC Vitkovice in the top Czech professional league. Depending on how training camp goes, Hershey fans might have the opportunity to see this Wonder from Down Under in action at the Giant Center starting in October.
Before the Bears start training Monday, more assignments are expected from Washington. The Capitals’ roster must be trimmed from 70 to 23 players by Monday, September 30th. The Bears are slated to report for meetings and physicals on Monday, with the first on-ice session starting Tuesday at Hersheypark Arena. Hershey opens its three-game exhibition when the new Utica Comets visit Giant Center this Friday night, September 27th.
Annie Erling Gofus is a freelance writer living outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She currently writes for http://www.summitolympus.com/, a sporting goods retailer with its roots in hockey. Originally from North Dakota, Erling Gofus relocated to Washington, DC after graduating with a BA in History from North Dakota State University. She has worked in several fields, including the federal government, museums, and internet start-ups, before settling into her career as a writer. You can view some of Annie’s work at http://annerlinggofus.com/.