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Aussie teen closing on NHL dream
Joe Barton
11:46 AEST Fri Dec 30 2011

Teenage ice hockey star Nathan Walker appears destined to conquer a final frontier for Australians in American sport - the National Hockey League.

Following in the footsteps of Aussie trailblazers Luc Longley (NBA), Joe Quinn (Major League Baseball) and Colin Scotts (National Football League), Walker is in line to become the first Australian to be drafted into the NHL.

The 17-year-old from Sydney is considered the best talent to come out of Australia.

He has drawn attention from American scouts in the past 18 months while making a name for himself in senior ranks of the Czech Republic league, playing for HC Vitkovice Steel in Ostrava.

Recently rated the sixth best Czech-based prospect, he's now a genuine chance to be picked up by an NHL club in the June draft.

Some strong performances in the Spengler Cup invitational club tournament currently underway in Davos, Switzerland have further boosted his stocks.

"This is definitely the (type of tournament) where he can get noticed, and he's already on their radars, don't worry about that," Don Rurak, president of Ice Hockey Australia, told AAP.

"It's a huge achievement because he's consistently being put on the ice and he's demonstrated he can compete with the best in Europe.

"As a 17-year-old, that's unbelievable.

"But he's a unique player. If you want to put it one way, he's the Wayne Gretzky of Australia."

Vitkovice pulled off an upset victory on Friday morning (AEST), humbling the Kloten Flyers 5-1 to advance to the Spengler Cup semi-finals, where they were to face hosts HC Davos on Saturday morning (AEST).

Walker impressed in the group stages when he scored his team's only goal in a loss to the strong Team Canada.

A former junior rugby league player, Walker made the move to the Czech Republic at age 13, leaving his family in Sydney, to further his dream one day playing in the NHL.

His ascension to one of the toughest competitions in world sport is the more remarkable because of his smaller stature.

At just 175cm the left forward would be towered over by the stars of the NHL, with two-time MVP Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin both standing at an imposing 191cm.

However IHA board member Andy McDowell believes he has the potential to succeed despite his size due to his skill set and desire.

"He's just really hard at the puck every time, he never stops chasing and has a huge work ethic," McDowell said.

Walker will get another chance to impress NHL scouts when he represents Australia in the world ice hockey championships in Poland in April.

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