I’ve been really impressed with Sammy Walker throughout his NCAA career. He seems to be immediately adored by the team, staff, and fans as he enters his third season in the league. He became the captain, top center, and leading scorer in just his second season and this year he’s hoping to lead his up-and-coming team back to the playoffs for the first time in four years. Walker can be described as a speedy, agile, center with amazing vision and puck handling skills. His wrist shot is pretty good, especially as a finisher on odd-man rushes.
Lauren talked about this aspect of Walker’s game in last year’s Top 25 Under 25 post, which also had him at #17, funnily enough. [Raw Charge]
“Most of Walker’s goals were scored using his wrist shot, which isn’t necessarily heavy but deceptive. He can adjust the angle on it effortlessly to fool goaltenders and his release is lethal. But it’s not the only way he can score goals. When he doesn’t have the puck, Walker forces his way towards the net, where he makes himself available for tip-ins and rebounds. Walker processes the game quickly, and his high hockey sense allows him to jump on opportunities that others may not necessarily see in time. He’s also got soft hands, and when you factor in his skating, Walker is a threat on any breakaway chance he’s afforded.”
She noted how Walker was exceptionally good at converting on breakaways using both speed and agility to create space for those chances, and with his ability to beat goalies with a sneaky wrist shot. This year, it’s been more of the same, except that I’ve noticed Walker has improved wingers around him that he can set up with clever passing plays.
One area where Walker will need to develop is the defensive side of his game, which will hopefully come as he fills out his frame. His play in the defensive zone still seems to be lacking — Walker’s on-ice goal differential has been negative for three seasons now — though his poor numbers could be a product of playing at the top of the lineup on a bad team and thus getting the hardest competition. That said, last year, the Gophers had a 57% even-strength goal differential with Walker off the ice.
I think we’ll get a clearer idea of where he stands away from the puck as the team hopefully improves and when he makes the jump to professional hockey and we can more clearly see how sheltered he needs to be in the AHL or NHL.
This holding pattern also seems to settled Walker into this spot in the Top 25 Under 25, nothing’s really changed in his profile so there’s no reason to move him beyond the teens in this ranking. I’m guessing once he graduates and reaches pro hockey we’ll get a better idea of his NHL potential.
I still have hope for this area of the game, which is very teachable to those who put in the effort, and considering how much Walker’s motor and drive has been lauded on and off the ice, there is good reason to believe he’ll get there.
Speaking of Walker’s determination, The Rink Live wrote a really inspiring and touching profile on Walker and his family, focusing on his challenges at birth and his determination to prove wrong everyone who doubted his size. [The Rink Live]
“When I was at a public pool when I was young, I’d get people staring, but pretty much everyone who sees it thinks it’s really cool,” Sammy said of his non-existent navel. “I didn’t pay too much attention until I got a little older and started playing on teams. I would show guys in the locker room and they would think it’s super cool.”
Hear from tonight's first star and GWG scorer Sammy Walker postgame. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/0pxjIc4ZS2— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) October 19, 2019
Four straight games with a goal for Sammy Walker? Sounds about right! pic.twitter.com/64uX3Y1SFq— Minnesota Men’s Hockey (@GopherHockey) October 26, 2019
Sammy Walker— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) November 20, 2020
2-1 Minnesota pic.twitter.com/uDMYNfj5C0
Sammy Walker puts home the rebound for his 2nd goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/UhYXarqKGv— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) November 24, 2020
Team Alumni Update. The Golden Gophers with some pretty passing transition quickly and that results in a Sammy Walker goal.— Stars n’ Stripes Hockey (@StarsStripesHKY) February 1, 2020
It's Scott Reedy to Blake McLaughlin and he finds Walker for the finish. #PrideOnIce #Bolts pic.twitter.com/fKlwnUQqDm