In a game dominated by speed, Sammy Walker stands out. Don’t blink when the Edina native fires up the jets—you might miss a game-breaking play.
Walker was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season, just a year after being the first Edina product to win the Mr. Hockey Award. And this past offseason, his teammates voted him co-captain. He is believed to be the first sophomore in Gopher hockey history to wear the ‘C.’
The Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick shared his thoughts on speed, creating turnovers, leadership and more.
MHJ: How’d you get so fast?
Sammy Walker: I focus a lot on speed and agility drills on and off the ice. I was always kind of gifted with speed but I’ve definitely put in time to work on it and get better at it. I’ll tell you this: The game is all speed now. You look at the NHL today—everyone’s fast. You have to be fast to make it far.
MHJ: Do you try to throttle that speed and use it to deceive opponents?
Sammy Walker: Yes, for sure. If you’re fast, it’s not that helpful going a hundred miles an hour and not really going anywhere. You have to use it to your advantage. You have to be smart with it.
MHJ: You’re not just offensive-minded. You’re constantly hounding opponents, stripping them of the puck and creating turnovers. There must be some satisfaction you take when you do that.
Sammy Walker: For sure. When a guy’s coming up the rink and not really expecting it, and you pickpocket them and leave them in the dust, it’s definitely a good feeling. Turning pucks over and getting back on the forecheck, then you start to feel good about your game and you’ll start to get some chances.
MHJ: What Gophers did you admire growing up?
Sammy Walker: I went to a ton of games. The ones that stuck out to me were Jay Barriball, Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel, Kyle Rau. Those are the guys I grew up watching.
MHJ: The Gophers held Edina Community Night in November. What did that mean to you?
Sammy Walker: It was super fun to go back to Edina and help coach the kids for a little bit. They look up to you. Growing up in Minnesota, they’re watching us and it’s their goal to make it this far. To go back and give them tips and stuff to work on, it’s pretty special.
College: University of Minnesota
7th Round Pick (No. 200 overall) for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017
MHJ: Did the coaches in Edina have a big impact on you and your development?
Sammy Walker: Curt Giles, my high school coach, was unbelievable. He taught me so much. He taught me to be good off the ice, to be a good person and give back to the community.
MHJ: As the captain, what are some leadership qualities that you believe are important?
Sammy Walker: Being a leader is day to day. Every day you’re treating the guys the same. You need to create a good environment in the locker room and make sure everyone feels welcome.
MHJ: Any advice for youth hockey players after a tough game or shift?
Sammy Walker: It’s hockey. You’re going to have your ups and downs. You have to learn not to get too high or too low. You’re not going to go out every game and score a million goals. Keep it even-keeled on good days and bad. When things get down, you take a look at what you did well and what you can do better next time, and then you keep going.