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Sammy Walker, a center who spent the past three seasons as captain of the Gophers men's hockey team, has signed a two-year, entry level contract with the Wild.

Walker, 23, was a seventh-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017, but he did not to sign with the team and became an NHL free agent.

"It definitely was a little stressful but definitely super exciting at the same time,'' Walker said of his decision. "I'm just super pumped to be able to sign with the hometown team.''

The 2018 Minnesota Mr. Hockey from Edina had 14 goals and 13 assists in helping the Gophers win the Big Ten regular-season title and advance to the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time since 2014. Walker scored a career-best four game-winning goals in 2021-22 and led Gophers forwards with 25 blocked shots.

The 5-11, 180-pound Walker could have returned for a fifth year with the Gophers because the NCAA granted players a COVID-19 waiver but instead decided to start his pro career. The speedy center finished with 48 goals and 64 assists with the Gophers.

"Ultimately, I had four years [at Minnesota] and I was ready for that next step, that next challenge,'' Walker said. "My time with the Gophers was unbelievable, and it would have been a blast to have another year, but I felt like this was best for me and my career.''

Walker will participate in an upcoming prospects tournament and attend training camp with the Wild. He is likely to start his pro career with Iowa of the AHL.