ST. LOUIS, Mo. – It was a wild week for the St. Louis Blues and forward Nathan Walker. The Blues made a series of recalls from the Springfield Thunderbirds, giving a nice representation to their NHL affiliate’s roster in the wake of personnel losses due to COVID-19 protocols. Entering the night with three career NHL goals, Walker made the most of his expanded role and increased ice time by netting a hat trick to power the Blues to a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
Walker was recalled early Wednesday under emergency conditions, jumping into the lineup as one of just 11 forwards dressed for the tilt with Detroit. The Blues had to make roster decisions after it was revealed six of their forwards were on the injured list, with Tyler Bozak, Justin Faulk, and Jordan Binnington unavailable due to the COVID-19 protocols that have hit around the league as of late. Once projected to be the fourth goaltender on the depth chart, Charlie Lindgren made the start and earned the win for the Blues in goal, and the depleted forward group allowed for Walker not only to play but earn a bigger role in the game.
The Aussie made good on the opportunity early, jumping into the rush off a bump pass from Brayden Schenn and firing the puck low through Alex Nedeljkovic to open the scoring on just his second shift of the game. Walker and Nedeljkovic are familiar with each other courtesy of their many matchups as members of the Hershey Bears and Charlotte Checkers, respectively, as the two teams dueled in a playoff series in 2019. Walker’s last goal as a Bear came in Game 3 of that series back on May 7, 2019, but Nedeljkovic and his team had the last laugh as eventual Calder Cup winners that season. So, the goal is a bit of revenge for Walker, who potted his second of the period with just over three minutes to play by snapping another shot from the left faceoff circle to double the Blues lead.
It took until the third period, but Walker completed the hat trick on a beautiful deflection on his backhand side and sent the lids flying at Enterprise Center. The Blues would tally two more goals to get the victory on home ice and get some revenge on the Red Wings, who they struggled to beat in their previous matchup in November.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) December 10, 2021
His hat trick was one for the NHL history books, as he is the first player of Australian nationality to score an NHL hat trick.
Walker previously had success in a Blues sweater during the preseason, where he recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick on October 6 before being assigned to Springfield. Walker has 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 19 games with the Thunderbirds so far this season.
Nathan Walker on getting his first NHL hat trick in front of #stlblues fans: "It's pretty special. All you want to do is play in the NHL, and to be able to do that is pretty nice, but to do it with this group here and these fans here has been great." pic.twitter.com/fkkTKX0TUG
— Bally Sports Midwest (@BallySportsMW) December 10, 2021
“It’s pretty special,” Walker said during an interview after being named the game’s first star. “All you want to do is play in the NHL, and to be able to do that is pretty nice, but to do it with this group here and these fans here has been great.”
Walker has 26 games of experience between the Blues, Washington Capitals, and Edmonton Oilers, tallying three goals and two assists in addition to his three tonight. It will be interesting to see how long it will be until the Blues get some of their injured skaters back, but until then, it’ll be hard to take Walker out of the lineup with strong performances like these.
The depth of the Blues’ organization in Springfield has stepped up after leading the AHL squad to the top spot in the Atlantic Division two months into the season, and players like Walker are proving they can play with the best of them.
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