Before he was recruited to play hockey at Union College four years ago, forward Jason Walters dreamed of playing pro hockey in Europe, particularly in Sweden.
In a few months, Walters will realize his dream.
The 24-year-old Walters has signed a contract with Vasteras of HockeyAllsvendken, a league that is a step below the Swedish Elite League.
“I am ecstatic to be heading to Sweden,” Walters said. “It was where I have wanted to go since I started this route with junior hockey and then the NCAA. Numerous guys from my hometown have gone this route and made careers, and I am hoping to follow in their footsteps.”
Walters helped lead the Dutchmen to a third-place finish, their highest ever in ECAC Hockey. They also reached the ECACH tournament championship game for the first time. It was his assist on Adam Presizniuk’s goal midway through the third period of their semifinal game against St. Lawrence that snapped a 1-1 tie and led Union to a 3-1 win.
Walters finished as the Dutchmen’s all-time Division I scoring leader with 115 points on 42 goals and 73 assists. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with 16 goals and 24 assists last season. He led the Dutchmen with four game-winning goals, and second in power-play goals with six.
Walters is looking forward to the challenge of playing in Sweden.
“My expectations are high, not only for myself, but for the team,” he said. “I have been given a great opportunity to jump start my career with Vasteras as their top center, and I am quite excited to help them return to the Elite League.”
Walters looked into some of the North American minor league teams, but when the offer came from Vasteras, he couldn’t wait to sign it.
“My agent had had some good talks with teams here, both in the [ECHL] and the [American Hockey League], but it was something I wanted to get done and know where I was headed sooner rather than later,” Walters said. “So, when Vasteras offered this contract, I was quite thrilled with it and could not pass it up. You never know what could have happened, in terms of perhaps waiting a little longer, but I am quite happy with my deal and opportunity, and looking forward to producing and continuing my career in Sweden.
“I do not know what will follow after this year. I plan on taking it one year at a time and going from there. A return to North America is always possible, but for right now, I am focused on having a great season with Vasteras and seeing what happens from there.”