Australian preparing for Capitals’ tryout camp
By Tom Williams
Nathan Walker’s trip from Sydney Australia to Ohio already was going to take more than 24 hours to complete when he missed his connecting flight in San Francisco.
Eleven hours later, the Youngstown Phantoms forward left California for his first training camp at the reopened Ice Zone.
When Tuesday’s practice ended, Walker was winded like his teammates, but said he’s doing OK.
“A little tired from the flights, but I’m feeling pretty good,” Walker said. “On top of [the delay], my bags got lost. It was brutal, but all in all, I’m feeling alright.”
Last season, Walker joined the Phantoms in January and helped propel them to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
He suffered a broken bone in his neck just before the USHL playoffs began and he was unable to play in the Phantoms’ two postseason series.
During the summer (Australia’s winter), Walker resumed skating when he returned home and was able to practice with a nearby team.
“I’m cleared and ready to go,” Walker said. “Good as new.”
Next week, Walker will take part in the Washington Capitals’ rookie camp in Arlington, Va.
“I’m over the moon,” said Walker of getting to compete against professionals. “Just getting invited, it doesn’t stop there. I’ve got to keep pushing at what I’m aiming for — the NHL.
“If it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world but I’m really excited.”
Walker was one of 27 players at the Phantoms’ first practice for the 2013-14 season. Head coach Anthony Noreen said he’s still putting names to bodies.
“Our main goal for today was to show these [new] guys the style we play,” said Noreen who’s beginning his third season as head coach.
“It wasn’t the prettiest practice, but I think they got a taste of how hard we play here.”
Noreen and assistant coach Brad Patterson conducted the practice. Rob Rassey, a former Mahoning Valley Phantom player who was Noreen’s assistant for two seasons, has departed for Boston where he will be an assistant coach at Harvard.
“Obviously, there’s disappointment that we wouldn’t have him, but I was extremely excited when I heard,” forward Josh Nenadal said. “It’s really great because he deserves it.”
Noreen said the team expects to name Rassey’s replacement by Labor Day.
Nenadal’s trip to training camp this season was much shorter than last year. A Cleveland resident, Nenadal was a Waterloo Blackhawk until being traded to Youngstown in October.
“My first [USHL] year, I think they got to see me play twice,” Nenadal said. “Now they get to come to every [home] game.”
Nenadal expects the Phantoms get off to a better start this fall than last year’s 5-11 opening.
“These guys are already more of a tight-knit group than when I got here last year,” Nenadal said of the first practice.