Sharing the hope of many young boys growing up in Ontario, Dustin Walsh ’13 dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League. But after being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Walsh deferred the chance to play professionally, opting instead to play for the Big Green under head coach Bob Gaudet.
The Dartmouth men’s hockey team (3-10, 1-6 ECAC Hockey) is already benefitting from the rookie’s offensive output, which has become a silver lining in the squad’s early-season struggles.
Despite not starting in the first two games of the season, Walsh has caught up quickly. He is now second on the team in goals with five and fourth on the team in overall scoring, with seven points.
“There are a lot of sophomores and seniors on the team,” Walsh said. “So I didn’t expect to contribute right away. When I got the chance, I made the most of it.”
Walsh describes himself as a good goal-scorer who can see the ice well and is patient with the puck. His skill set paid off the first time in an early-season matchup against Colgate University, when he notched his first goal for the Big Green off a pass from Joe Gaudet ’10.
“It was good to get that out of the way,” Walsh said. “Everyone is always looking for that first goal, so it was good to get the monkey off my back early.”
Scoring goals has rarely been a problem, however, in the fourteen years he has played hockey. Before making his way to Hanover, Walsh played for the St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School for two years, then finished off his outstanding high school career on the Kingston Voyageurs, a Junior AA league team in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
As a senior on the Voyageurs, Walsh racked up 45 goals and 90 points in 68 games and led his team to win the OJHL Hewitt Cup. Such production captured the attention of several prominent Canadian scouts. Walsh was chosen to play in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s 2008 Top Prospects game for Team East, and in the same year, he was named to the NHL’s Central Scouting Players to Watch list.
Dartmouth has a number of other drafted players on the team, including rookie Mark Goggin ’13, who was picked by the Boston Bruins in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. Returning Big Green players Joe Stejskal ’11 and Troy Mattila ’12 have also been drafted, by the Canadiens and the New York Islanders, respectively.
Growing up in a hockey family in Shannonville, Ont., where his father and two brothers also played first caused Walsh to become a fan of the sport.
“We had a frozen pond in our front yard, and I started skating and playing hockey when I was four years old,” Walsh said.
From childhood, Walsh was a fanatical supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On the pond, Walsh often imagined himself as a Maple Leaf star scoring goal after goal to win the Stanley Cup.
Coming out of high school, after pondering all the possibilities, Walsh decided to join his brother Nick Walsh ’12 on the team.
“My brother loved it here, so I decided to check it out,” Dustin Walsh said. “It’s good to have an older brother on the team, because then you kind of know what to expect.”
According to Walsh, despite his familiarity with college hockey, it is still a major adjustment from high school hockey to a Division-I team.
“The game is a lot faster,” he said. “I was used to playing against players my own age, but up here, there are guys who are 24 or 25. They make the game seem really fast.”
Another major difference between high school and college hockey is the number of lines and the competition within the team. On Walsh’s previous teams, there were usually just one or two strong lines, but Dartmouth has five solid lines, giving all of the athletes constant incentive to compete.
Walsh’s long-term goal is to improve his game in his four years at Dartmouth before looking for an opportunity to crack the roster of the farm team of a NHL organization.
In the meantime, however, he is looking to help the Big Green win hockey games. Despite the disappointing start to the season, Walsh said he is confident that his team can make a strong comeback in the remaining games.
“We still have a lot of in-conference games left, where we can get a lot of points in a hurry,” he said.
It will be not be easy for the Big Green to rack up points and climb up in the ECAC standings, but Walsh’s talent will certainly help.