Cardiff Devils forward Josh Waller is emerging as one of the most promising players in the Elite League this season.
The 22-year-old winger posted his fifth point in as many league games, on a night when the Devils got their season back on track with a 3-0 victory over visiting Manchester Storm.
A solid collective performance that saw Josh Batch and leading points scorer Brodie Reid join Waller on the scoresheet, felt like a step-forward for the Devils on Sunday night, against a competitive Manchester outfit that had seen off the Belfast Giants 3-0 the previous night.
Mac Carruth stopped all 25 shots to earn his first shutout of the campaign to settle the team ahead of a week that sees them visit the Guildford Flames in the Challenge Cup on Wednesday night, before weekend games against the Nottingham Panthers (home) and the Coventry Blaze (away).
Reading-born Waller was one of the lower-profile signings when he arrived at Cardiff Bay this summer, but the number 91 has already earned rave reviews amongst the Devils fan base as the new-look team continues to take shape.
Waller’s speed was again evident last night as he combined with Trevor Cox to score his second of the season. The pair were on penalty kill duty until a turnover saw them race up the ice on a 2-v-1 rush that left Storm netminder Matt Ginn with little chance.
Waller’s game is more rounded and advanced than purely being a speed merchant. On a development pathway that saw him play junior hockey in the Czech Republic and represent Team GB at U18 and U20 level, Waller’s maturity this season, with and without the puck, is allowing him to hold his own alongside and against more established and experienced players.
Integrating himself into the Devils has been the latest challenge in Waller’s career but it’s not one he’s shied away from. After a little over 100 EIHL games with the Guildford Flames and brief spells in Sweden and the Sheffield Steelers (in the Elite Series), the left-handed shot joined the Devils as the side underwent a complete rebuild this summer, with a mass influx of players arriving ahead of new coach Jarrod Skalde’s first season in charge.
“Waller caught my eye in the Elite Series because of his speed and composure on the puck. He got better and better each game, and you could see the Steelers coach was giving him more opportunity to play in key situations as the tournament progressed,” said Skalde at the time of his signing.
The transition from being a newly assembled team to a collective unit capable of contending for titles was never going to be a smooth ride, yet Waller has risen to that challenge, already establishing himself as an important piece of Skalde’s roster, having earned the trust of his new coach despite his lack of experience.
Waller’s influence on this new-look Devils team seems to be growing week by week and should he continue to apply himself and progress at the rate he has already shown this season, then surely it is only a matter of time before he takes the next major step of his career and cracks the full Team GB team.
The IIHF World Championships come around again next May and if Waller can continue on his current trajectory, don’t be surprised to see him make the Team GB roster for the trip to Finland.
Featured image courtesy of Rebecca Brain