Normally NHL number one draft picks come from Canada. Seven out of the last eight number one overall picks were Canadian, and 39 of the 50 number one overall picks have been from Canada. Dominant to say the least. However, history was made yesterday when the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Auston Matthews number one overall. Matthews, as we all know, grew up in Scottsdale idolizing Shane Doan and Danny Briere.
Story has it, the Zamboni was what really drew Matthews in. His father told Sportsnet Auston loved watching the Zamboni clean up the ice between periods, sparking his passion for hockey. By grade school Matthews was skating in local rinks playing in youth leagues. At six years old, Matthews favorite team the Coyotes were just seven years old. They were both babies growing up together. Fast forward 13 years and Auston is now the NHL’s number one overall pick. All while being influenced by an NHL team in a “non traditional hockey market.” Funny I think I know another place that’s been described that way?
Las Vegas will start playing regulation games in the fall of 2017. At that point, little kids across Nevada will be falling in love with the NHL. Kids who can’t skate, can’t shoot, and can’t pass are gearing up for a sport they don’t know yet. That was Auston Matthews at six years-old.
In 1997, the Coyotes had only been in Phoenix for one year, a relocated team that made the playoffs the first four years of existence. As Auston got older, the team started to fail and the hype had faded. It didn’t matter, it was the grittiness of guys like Doan that impacted Matthews to fall in love with the hockey. Young Las Vegas fans will learn about rules, players, and emotions of the NHL. Some of these kids will feel sports highs and lows for the first time. One goal games, OT, and shootouts make hockey thrilling every single night. Autographs, hockey cards, foam fingers, will have kids packing local rinks. Add in affection for players, and kids of Las Vegas will be hooked.
I’m not saying young tykes from Las Vegas will be drafted number one, but some local kids will eventually be drafted. The 2016 number overall pick found his calling being a fan of a southwestern NHL team. I’m sure the Las Vegas franchise will influence kids to dedicate themselves to hockey as well. Just like Matthews did a decade ago in Scottsdale, kids in Southern Nevada will be dreaming of making it to the NHL. Hopefully we never pick first again, but if we do, maybe he’ll be from an 891XX area code.