Wild rookie Sammy Walker loses his first point, but there will be more from the former Gophers captain
He has been playing alongside Freddy Gaudreau and opposite Matt Boldy since making NHL debut.
ST. PAUL -- Sammy Walker’s name drew cheers Monday night at Xcel Energy Center as public-address announcer Adam Abrams alerted the home crowd of a milestone moment for the Minnesota Wild rookie from Edina.
After an impressive goal that featured Freddy Gaudreau finishing off a pretty pass from Matt Boldy in close, Walker also got credit with an assist as he appeared to start the sequence by feathering the puck into open ice.
As the fans provided a nice ovation, Walker celebrated the first point of his NHL career only to have it taken away 10 minutes later. Upon further review, the officials in the press box ruled that Walker did not touch the puck at any point. His contributions were wiped from the box score in the Wild’s 2-1 win over Edmonton.
Though it was anticlimactic for Walker in real time, there will be more points to come for the former Gophers captain. He certainly looks comfortable a couple of games into his NHL career.
“I’m very impressed,” Gaudreau said. “He plays with so much speed and confidence.”
The speed was on display Saturday night in Vancouver against the Canucks as Walker garnered a breakaway in his NHL debut. The confidence was on display in the most recent game against the Oilers as Walker dangled around defenders with some impressive stick work in the offensive zone.
“His maturity to hang on to pucks is impressive,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “The speed is good. The maturity level in his game is even better.”
As mature as he has appeared to be on the surface, Walker admitted there were some butterflies whenever he was on the ice at the same time as the Oilers dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Walker said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Should I get off (the ice)?’ ”
Impressively, Walker never showed his nerves in the game. In fact, he looked as confident as can be with the puck on his stick.
There was a particular stretch against the Oilers during which Walker deked a defender out of his skates, carried the puck toward the net, then sent a pass to Boldy near the crease. It would have been a goal had it not been for a big save from Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner.
Nonetheless, the willingness to try something like that provides a glimpse into how good Walker can be.
“He’s been fitting in awesome,” Boldy said. “I think tonight he had a lot more confidence in his own game. Just being a little bit more poised with the puck and making more plays. I think it’s only going to get better. He’s super smart. He knows how to get into certain spots to make easy plays.”
That could make life easier on Boldy moving forward as the Wild continue to search for someone to fill the void left by Kevin Fiala’s departure. Though it’s clear Boldy works well with Gaudreau — they have built off the chemistry from last season — the line has lacked another skilled player to make everything go.
Maybe the Wild have found that in Walker. Asked how he has been able to make an impact so quickly, Walker replied, “I’ve just tried to use my speed and buzz around the ice and wreak havoc.”
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