January 20, 2014

Scott Walker: Mr. Versatile

It was pretty hard not to like Scott Walker. Unless you had to play against him, I suppose. But he certainly had the respect of everyone in the National Hockey League.

Few players reinvented themselves as thoroughly or as successfully as Scott Walker.

Walker was a defenseman in junior but converted to forward at the NHL level because of his lack of size. Not that he didn't play a big man's game. He was a feisty pain to play against. He was courageous and gritty, willing to drop the gloves now and again. He did whatever it took to try and stay on that third line.

Walker became an excellent role player. He had excellent speed and mobility, which allowed him to get in on the forecheck where he would doggedly pursue the puck. His skating and anticipation also allowed him to develop into a very good penalty killer.

With his hard work he was a coach's favorite. The coach knew exactly who to call on whenever he felt his team needed a jolt of energy. He also added a lot of flexibility to the team, as he was able to play all three forward positions fairly well, and dropped back to defense in emergency situations.

In Nashville Walker emerged as legitimate scoring threat. In his career he had a very respectable three 20+ goals seasons and surprised many with a team leading 67 point season in 2003-04.

Walker was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks but was claimed by the expansion Nashville Predators after 4 seasons. Walker enjoyed his best years in Nashville, setting the franchise record for points in a season (since broken) and for a brief period was the franchise's all time leading scorer (also since broken).

One of Walker's biggest backers was Nashville coach Barry Trotz.

"We didn't want to tone down his game when he arrived," Trotz explains. "He realized when he got here that he would be playing a higher role with this club and he ran with it. He changed everything toward that goal, even his off-season training regimen because he knew he was going to go from a 10-minute-per-game guy to a 20-minute per-game-guy.

"Scotty's been very good for us. He's what expansion is all about. He was presented with an opportunity and he's made the most out of it."

Hernia and wrist injuries derailed his 2005-06 season and soon he was off to Carolina. He ended his career in 2010 with a brief stop in Washington where concussions all but ended his career.

Walker was popular everywhere he played

Scott Walker scored 151 goals and 246 assists for 397 points in 829 NHL games.

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