Crunch's Walcott 'Making Friends' With Abrasive Style

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Daniel Walcott realizes that he’s at his best when he’s abrasive.

The Syracuse Crunch forward prides himself on his play on the forecheck and ability to rile up opponents. Walcott can also chuck some fists when the time comes.

Since moving from defense to forward full-time earlier this season, Walcott has focused on bringing energy to the Crunch lineup.

“I’m an energetic guy, so if I can spread the wealthy with my energy, I’ll do that,” Walcott said. “Also, I want to create plays and play the right way defensively. If I’m on the ice, I can’t get scored on. That’s been a focus for me — to bring energy and be physically, but be sound defensively.”

For Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx, Walcott uses his speed to be a pest. That type of player is often involved in plays where emotions boil over.

Case in point: Walcott was asked by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Joseph Cramarossa for a fight during the first period Saturday, and the Quebec native agreed to try to get his team going.

“It’s a game of emotion, and sometimes during the course of the game, those things happen,” Groulx said. “I think it comes with the territory when you play the way he does, at one point you’re going to have some friends coming to visit you and have that confrontation. He knows that and he’s doing well with it.”

Walcott is more than happy to play that role.

“I actually love getting in peoples’ face and getting people mad. I embrace that role,” the 24-year-old said. “I do make friends out there, I feel like. Maybe they don’t think we’re friends but if I can get in your face and we’re close, then we’re close friends.”

Originally a fifth round draft pick by the New York Rangers in 2014, Walcott has registered two goals and eight assists in 42 games this season with Syracuse, and has 42 points in 173 career AHL games.

Walcott has gone back and forth between forward and defense throughout his three-year pro career, but decided he wanted to focus on playing forward this season.

“Me and the coach spoke about me potentially playing forward for the rest of the year, and then we decided to take it a game at a time,” Walcott said. “It’s been going well and I feel like I’m just a regular forward with the guys. If they need me on D and are running short, maybe I’ll get put back there, but for now all the D are healthy and I’m playing forward. I’ve got to earn my spot and stay in the lineup as a forward.”

On a team filled with skilled rookies and veterans that regularly contribute on the scoresheet, Walcott brings his own element to the game.

“He’s got to be good on the forecheck and create energy,” Groulx said. “For me, when you look through our lineup, we don’t have many players like that. In the organization there’s not many players like that, so there might an opening for him there.”

While he felt he had a better opportunity to make the next step to the NHL as a forward, Walcott is focused on sticking to his game in Syracuse.

“For me, right now, concentrate on Syracuse,” Walcott said. “If I’m fortunate enough that Tampa looks at me as a forward and they like what they see and give me a call-up, that’s great. But right now I’ve got to concentrate on staying in the lineup every game in Syracuse and bringing the energy on the road, at home, every game, three-n-threes, no matter what and focus on helping this team win.”

Pictured: Crunch forward Daniel Walcott leads the rush up the ice against the Phantoms at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.