Walker becomes a Blade
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman, The StarPhoenix
May 10, 2012
As soon as the Brandon Wheat Kings were eliminated from the WHL playoffs, Brenden Walker was told it would only be a matter of time before he'd be a Saskatoon Blade.
Considering core veterans like Mark Stone (Ottawa), Michael Ferland (Calgary) and Kevin Sundher (Buffalo) have all signed NHL entry level contracts and aren't likely to return to the Wheat Kings, Walker was aware a rebuild might be in order.
So when his cellphone continued to ring with "Kelly McCrimmon" - the name of Brandon's general manager - flashing on the display last Thursday, he figured that's what had happened.
"I heard rumblings all around town with people telling me I would be going to Saskatoon," said Walker. "Sure enough, I ended up going. They weren't making it up."
The right-winger was acquired by the Blades from Brandon at the bantam draft for two second-round selections (2012 and 2013) and a third (2014).
Brandon also has the right to swap first-round picks in 2014.
With the Blades hosting the MasterCard Memorial Cup next May, head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken wanted to upgrade his depth upfront and turned to a player who was a thorn in their side last year.
Walker posted career highs with 26 goals and 81 points in 68 games in his third WHL campaign in 2011-12. However, it was against the Blades where Walker really made his mark, scoring five goals and adding six assists in eight contests.
"It was a strange feeling," said Walker, recalling his initial thoughts about playing for the Blades.
"I've always liked playing in Saskatoon. I've always played really well in that building. Going back to play Brandon is going to be really different, but I've just got to play hockey." The addition of the St. Anne, Man., native marked the second big trade for Saskatoon on draft day.
The Blades started off the day by acquiring veteran forwards Shane McColgan, Jessey Astles and a conditional 2014 third-round draft pick from the Kelowna Rockets for 18-year-old centre Ryan Olsen and a secondhand fifth-round selection in the 2012. The conditional pick is contingent on whether or not McColgan returns as an overager for the 201314 season. Like McColgan - who was a Rockets' rookie at the 2009 Memorial Cup - Walker was a freshman at the 2010 tournament, which Brandon hosted.
Both Kelowna and Brandon lost in the final in their respective trips, something Walker would like to see change with the Blades.
However, the key to finding success is not thinking too far ahead, he said.
"During the league, you've got to forget about the Memorial Cup," said Walker. "It's a whole different ball game. There's the regular season and then the playoffs."
As one of the Blades' overagers next season, the 5foot11, 181-pound winger will be expected to lead on the ice.
He has racked up 152 points in three seasons with Brandon and believes he can build on those totals even without Stone and Ferland.
"Everyone's just got to play their game," he said. "Hopefully they make me better and I make them better and we all work together.
"It's not about one guy. You've got to play as a team and I think we'll be just fine. I know there's a lot of skill and talent and toughness on the Saskatoon Blades."
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