EVERETT — Understanding is Ian Walker’s best asset this season.
The 2000-born defenseman isn’t as flashy as his blue line contemporaries, but he’s remained a fixture in the Everett Silvertips’ lineup due to his steady presence on the ice.
“He’s one of our most reliable defensemen,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said. “He’s a cerebral player. He’s a guy you probably don’t notice a whole lot, but he logs 20-to-23 minutes a game. Good penalty killer, blocks pucks. He makes good decisions.
“Sometimes as I say, guys get worried about being someone who they’re not. He’s really good at what he does. And for that he’s one of the most trustworthy players over the course of 18 months.”
Walker, a third-round pick by Everett in the 2015 bantam draft, started his WHL career in 2016 as a 16-year-old under head coach Kevin Constantine, where he recorded five assists in 42 games. Walker said it was an easy decision to sign with the Silvertips and noted several defenseman Everett has produced and sent to the NHL, most notably Canadiens’ first-round pick Noah Juulsen, who played his final WHL season with Walker in 2016-2017.
“It’s been a feeder system for defensemen to the pros for years,” Walker said. “Spending the whole year with Juulsen, it was amazing to see how he conducted himself,” Walker said.
The Vancouver native assumed a bigger role in 2017, recording eight points in 67 games and playing in all of Everett’s 22 playoff games.
This season, Walker boasts one goal and six assists in 42 games and is on pace to set career-highs in both.
While he’s not a regular offensive contributor, Williams said that doesn’t discourage Walker or affect the way he plays.
“Everyone wants to play power play, everyone wants an offensive role,” Williams said. “Is Walks that right now? No. That doesn’t mean that isn’t going to change next year or even this year.
“But what I tell him is what he needs to do to be good in his role and in the lineup. He’s a good defender, good first pass. He doesn’t really get beat wide much, stays inside the dots. Brings that calming factor to the ice.”
Walker has shared a defenseman pairing with Gianni Fairbrother for the most of the season, who Walker goes way back with. The two played on the same midget team with Burnaby Winter Club Elite 15s in 2015-2016.
Walker said he relishes his role.
“Oh, I love it,” Walker said. “I know my job is to keep pucks out of the back of the net and if I do that on a night-to-night basis, I’ll get more opportunity. If it contributes to team success and we’re winning games, I’m happy.
“We’re one big core,” Walker said, “and I’m just one of the cogs in the wheel.”