Nathan Walker has had an interesting season. He first made the Caps' team out of training camp, was placed on waivers, claimed by the Edmonton Oilers, placed on waivers again and was reclaimed by Washington and is likely on his way to Hershey after the NHL's holiday roster freeze is lifted at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.
That's quite the journey for a young prospect.
As a small, scrappy forward and the first Australian player to play in the NHL, it is understandable why Walker has become a fan favorite. But where does he actually rank among the Caps' prospects?
After a strong preseason, Walker struggled in the regular season on certain aspects of his game, including wall play and transitioning the puck out of the defensive zone, skills that are particularly important for bottom-six forwards. He still needs to work on those aspects of his game, but he has shown potential as a bottom-six NHL forward.
Considering how many drafted players never make the NHL at all, the fact that Walker looks like he could potentially be a fourth line forward means something. But it's also important to remember he is not a Jakub Vrana or Ilya Samsonov. Putting those kinds of expectations on him would be unfair and would diminish his accomplishments if and when he does make the NHL.
Given his potential, if Vrana spent his career primarily as a bottom-six NHL forward, that would be a disappointment. The same would not be true for Walker.