Walcott Returns to Old Number, Regular Position With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Daniel Walcott is returning to his old number and his regular position.

The second-year pro will wear No. 85, a number he wore as the captain of Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL, and go back to full-time duty as a defenseman for the Syracuse Crunch this season.

While splitting time at forward and defense was a learning experience and kept him in the lineup, Walcott believes he is ready to shine on the Crunch blue line.

"I think I performed well up in Tampa and I got my confidence at D, and I just want to keep building on it," Walcott said. "A fresh number, a new start and a steady position."

Walcott counted 32 games at defense and another 30 at forward last season. The 22-year-old brought a physical presence, saw some spot duty on Syracuse’s third line, and finished with two goals, 11 assists, and 54 penalty minutes in 62 games.

"They know where they want me and they know where I'm going to succeed ... If they want me on D, I'll play on D," Walcott said. "Had they said I'd be a forward, I would have embraced it and worked my butt off to be the best forward I can."

The time at forward gave Walcott a new perspective on the game, one that he thinks will help him in the long run.

"With this team and Tampa, you want the D to join the rush and be an offensive threat as well," Walcott said. "When I step up in the O-zone and I'm caught down low, it gave me some more insight on how to play down low."

Walcott was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by the New York Rangers, and played one game for the Hartford Wolf Pack, but was traded to the Lightning organization in 2015.

Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx recalled coaching against Walcott when he was behind the bench with Gatineau of the QMJHL.

"I know him from before and I know what he can bring," Groulx said. "He feels very good playing defense, and I think he's getting better every day. He was good at Coral Springs, he was good in Tampa and we just like the energy he brings to our team."

For Groulx, Walcott's work ethic and grit stood out immediately while he coached during the 2016 Prospect Tournament last month in Coral Springs, Florida.

"When you get to know Daniel, you notice his compete level," Groulx said of the 5-11, 170-pounder. "He is playing with that passion and commitment. When I saw him in Coral Springs, I saw that right away."

Whether he's at forward or on defense, Walcott still has the same mindset going into every game.

"Have an impact on every game and help the team win, and do stuff that pushes us towards winning and be in the lineup every game and help the team," Walcott said. "Play physical, bring some energy and be a force every game."

Pictured: Crunch defenseman Daniel Walcott looks to make a pass during practice at the Onondaga County War Memorial Tuesday.