ASU men's hockey's Johnny Walker: A story of goals, chirps and family

Walker is more than just Sun Devil hockey's leading goal scorer

It is said that Johnnie Walker Blue has a balance of three elements that make it a fine scotch: smokiness, earthiness and a hint of toffee.

The same can be said for freshman forward Johnny Walker, who has three elements to his game that make him an exceptional hockey player: scoring goals, antagonizing his opponents and having support from his family. 

“He’s like a hybrid between a very skilled player and a hard-nosed, grinder kind of a guy,” assistant coach and offensive coordinator Alex Hicks said. “He brings a little bit of both, and he can bring the ability to score goals, make plays, make his teammates better, and he can also bring the role of a third, fourth line guy that can finish checks, play a little dirty and get in the other team’s face.”

Walker is the team’s leading goal scorer, having scored five goals in the last seven games for a total of 10 goals and six assists on the season. 

In ASU’s most recent game against Yale, Walker tied the game to get his 10th goal of the season, breaking the record for goals scored by a freshman. 

“I think he has just developed more confidence, and its really shown the last half of the season,” head coach Greg Powers said. “We are really proud of him, and I think Johnny has his eyes set on much bigger things.”

As of right now, Walker is focused on being the player that can produce in every capacity on the ice. However, that does not always translate to just scoring goals. 

“I’m just trying to prove every night that I belong on the ice … I want to be the guy that gets his name called no matter the situation,” Walker said. “I think the most important part of being a great hockey player is consistency. You go out there one night and have three, four goals, and then you don’t score for 15 games. It kind of doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

In the second half of the season, Walker has been consistent as 10 of his 16 overall points have come in the last 15 games. 

Nonetheless, the right wing has always utilized his uncanny ability to throw opponents off their games. 

“... You need a guy like that, that can get under the other team’s skin a little bit. It’s not normally the guy that’s leading your team in goals, which makes him unique,” Hicks said. “That’s something he has that can really help as he moves forward and as he tries to become a leader on this team ... If he can combine both of those, then he might be on to something.” 

This talent for trouble is often underrated, especially when it is masked by a genuine aptness for scoring goals and finding space on the ice. 

When Walker uses it the right way, it becomes even more useful, as it helps in all aspects of his game, as well as those of his teammates. 

“That’s always been an important part of my game to put the puck in the net, maybe putting a little energy here and there, whether it’s getting under the other team’s skin or firing up the other team,” Walker said. “I think the more attention I can get from their team on me, it leaves less on the boys … the more they can hate me, the less they can worry about the boys, and that opens things up for the team. It just helps all around, and I kind of feed off of it too.”

Normally, this kind of play also means a good deal of penalty minutes, but not in Walker’s case. 

After finding his offensive game in the second part of the season, he has taken only two minor penalties compared to the nine he had in the first half of the year. 

Instead, Walker draws other teams into taking penalties, or like he said, "baits them into doing something stupid."  

“Johnny is just a very competitive player,” Powers said. “He’s one of those players you hate to play against but love playing with. I’ll leave it at that.”

It’s clear that Walker has become an indispensable part of ASU men's hockey. A primary reason for that, and why he decided to come to ASU in the first place, is something that is an even more important part of his life: his family. 

After leaving his family and hometown of Phoenix when he was 14 to pursue hockey, Walker is now making up for lost time, especially with his 13-year-old brother, who wants to follow in his brother's footsteps as a hockey player. 

“Outside the hockey and outside the schooling, that was probably the number one factor… it was to come here and play in front of him and kind of be a role model…” Walker said. “I help with his practices every week, so just being around him as much as I can is important to him."

Whether it’s being a role model for his brother or being a leader for ASU hockey, given Walker's current trajectory, Walker is on a path for success. 

“Johnny is one of most competitive kids I’ve ever coached, and I know he won’t be content and will want to keep improving all of the detail his game is currently missing,” Powers said. “The sky is truly the limit for him. His potential is limitless as a player and person.”


Reach the reporter at pburnell@asu.edu or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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