It may come off as a minor signing as the Minnesota Wild are looking as if they’re going to be pushing the cap limit with Granlund and Foligno yet to sign, but if you’re in Des Moines or just excited about Minnesota’s depth as an organization, this is one of my favorite signings of the off-season.
He comes with a whirlwind of a junior career, one where he was a featured point scorer on the Victoria Royals (WHL), though it was a team that hasn’t made it out of the second round of the post-season since their inaugural 2011/12 season. Here’s his stat sheet:
What is Jack Walker?
Initially, Walker came into the Wild’s Development Camp with a few questions surrounding him when the roster was announced. A 2016 draft pick, you would think that Toronto would’ve retained his rights through the 2018 draft, but that turned out to not be the case.
According to the NHL CBA, Section 8.6.a.ii:
“Subject to the provisions of subsection (iii) below and Sections (b), (c) and (d) below, if, on or before June 1 of the calendar year next succeeding the Entry Draft, the claiming Club makes a Bona Fide Offer (as defined below) to its claimed Player of an SPC, the Club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for the services of such Player up to and including the second June 1 following the date of his selection.”
So what does that mean exactly? Lou Lamoriello decided to not extend Jack the “Bona Fide Offer” despite a 1.03 PPG performance in 2016/17 (down from his 1.17 in his draft year) and a showing at the Leafs’ development camp in his draft season, allowing other clubs to come after him follwing that June 1st deadline.
His role as a draft pick in 2016 confused members of the Leaf blogging community, especially Pension Plan Puppets, who were left scratching their heads as to what Walker was exactly: a forward or a defenseman? Victoria’s head coach, Dave Lowry, didn’t help at all, telling Maple Leafs Hot Stove that the only reason that Walker wasn’t a defenseman in 2015/16 was because they were short-handed on offense.
Role with the Wild
2017 wasn’t Walker’s first year at the Wild Development Camp, as he attended in 2015 as a local talent. However, he was projected as a forward that used to play offense. When I talked with Lowry prior to Camp, he described a guy that wasn’t dissimilar to an ATH (if you’re into college football recruiting). The gist of that conversation: he can play anywhere.
“Jack flourished in a number of roles last year. In addition to providing offence on our top two lines, he was also an important player on the power play and penalty kill for us. He was even used as a defenceman at times, particularly in 4 on 4 situations.”
What Iowa is getting is a multi-faceted forward that can play in a variety of spots. His speed was something that was noticed by everyone who attended camp. His decision making was there as well as an active stick on defense. He batted a variety of saucer passes from the air and closed in quickly to make easy passes look errant.
Lalonde already said that he is excited to work with Walker this summer at Traverse City, but Iowa signing him to a Minor League deal is definitely a vote of confidence. I’m interested to see where he fits the roster at the end of the year: is he going to be a featured member of the power-play/penalty kill? Will he get any defensive minutes? Will his speed change the offensive game plan of scoring from the blue line?
The Baby Wild also announced the signings of: defensemen Mike Sdao and Ian Brady, goalie Christian Frey, as well as forward Evan Janssen.
Iowa opens their fifth AHL season against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators), Saturday, October 7th at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.