First year pro: Ben Walter

By Janine Pilkington

2004 draft pick Ben Walter is embarking on the beginning of his pro career in the AHL with the Providence Bruins. The 21-year-old center spent three seasons at U Mass Lowell, where he recently completed his junior year season with an outstanding 39 points in 36 games. His play earned him recognition as one of the top forwards in Hockey East and made him a finalist for the Hobey Baker award. Half of his 2004-05 season goals came on the power play, which topped all of Hockey East, where he led in goals scored as well.

Walter arrived at the Bruins rookie camp in September of 2005 with a new contract, and the anticipation of his career.

“It was really a lot of fun,” he said. “You know, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I came in, the rookie camp was good, and I just got a chance to stick around for a while. I got to know a lot of the guys up there, and the coaches and stuff, it was a good experience.”

Walter had a successful camp in Boston, before being sent down to Providence, enough so, that he was called back up and given the opportunity to play in six of the B’s preseason games. The young center was surprised he stuck so long, but enjoyed the experience, which included mixing with some of Boston’s veteran players.

“I got to play on a line with [Joe] Thornton and [Glenn] Murray in one game and I’ve been watching those guys on TV for years now,” Walter said. “You know they’re just all great players, but they’re all great guys too. It’s good to know that they’re all down to earth.”

Walter is one of many rookies looking to make an impact for the Baby B’s this year. In Providence, he joins other young hopefuls Nate Thompson, Mark Stuart, Jordan Sigalet and Jonathan Sigalet.

“It’s going to be different, but, I really look forward to it,” Walter said. “I wanted to make the next step in my hockey career and I’m just going to go out and hopefully have a good start to the year and see what happens.”

Walter would have been a senior at U Mass Lowell for the 2005-06 season, but decided to leave college early so that he could begin his pro career. It was a tough decision to make, but ultimately what he felt was the best decision for his future.

“Oh yeah, it was [a tough decision], and it came down to the wire there at the end of the summer, but it was the right situation and something that I wanted to do — and they’re going to have a great year at U Mass [Lowell], I know they will.”

How will he fit in with Providence for the 2005-06 season? While Coach Scott Gordon’s team is still very much a work in progress, he counts Walter among the players that could make an impact this year. Overall, the third-year coach seems pleased with the potential on his team, due in part to the diversity and the span of talent among his players. Ben Walter is one of a number of prospects making his debut on the team this season.

“I think a lot of the things we have this year more than any other, as far as prospects is centermen,” Gordon said. “Not one of them is the same type of player, either, which is good, because it’s a hard position. I look at our team and hopefully we’re going to be strong down the middle.”

With a bright future ahead of him, Walter is ready for the challenge. He appears to take it all in stride, but at the same time recognizes the work it will take to land a position in Boston. He will need to get stronger and acclimate himself to the pro game, and plans to make the most of his time in Providence.

“I hopefully want to have a good year,” he said. “I want to get off to a good start and take a little bit to get used to the pro lifestyle, the pro game and everything — we’ve got some good veterans on our team that I’ll definitely look up to for help if I ever need it. I definitely need to get stronger and faster, and they told me I need to work on the whole defensive aspect of the game, I think that’s going to be big for me. I just want to go out and play my game, just have a good year, both as a team and individually.”

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.