Oklahoma has a penchant for producing some of the nation’s top athletes. The Sooner State may be a hotbed of talent for football, baseball and wrestling talent, but when it comes to hockey, it’s a different story.
Matt Donovan is hoping to change that. The Edmond native became the first Oklahoman to drafted in the National Hockey League, when the New York Islanders tabbed the when the 6-foot, 185 defenseman in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft last week.
“I was pretty much just shocked the first time I saw that I was drafted, and I am still shocked, but still very honored that I was drafted by the Islanders,” said Donovan, who watched the draft at home in Edmond.
Several NHL clubs expressed interest in Donovan before the draft, but he was not sure if his name would be called. His father, Larry Donovan, who is the head coach of the University of Oklahoma club team, knew Matt had a shot, but remained cautious.
“I knew it was a chance, I just didn’t want him to be disappointed, and he wasn’t,” Matt’s father, Larry Donovan said. “He’s worked very hard to get where he’s at and now that work is paying off.”
The former Edmond North student said it was tough drawing attention in Oklahoma, and hopes he can serve as an inspiration to young players across the state.
“It is such an honor that I’m the first player to ever get drafted out of Oklahoma, it makes me think I give hope to young kids playing in Oklahoma, now they now know it’s possible,” Donovan said.
It was not that long ago that 18-year-old was another young player hoping to get noticed. Donovan grew up playing hockey in Oklahoma, but left for Texas two years ago to play with the Dallas Stars AAA team. That exposure helped him attract attention from the United States Hockey League (USHL), an all-junior circuit that prepares future collegiate and professional players. The Cedar Rapids Roughriders selected Donovan in the first-round of the 2007 draft.
“It’s just like a ladder, you have keep working up to next level,” Donovan said.
“You have to be there where the people are at, and they don’t come to Oklahoma to watch hockey,” Larry Donovan said.
In his first season with the Roughriders, Donovan scored 12 goals and added 18 assists in 59 games.
Donovan will head to New York for a mini-camp in July. He plans to spend the rest of the summer in Oklahoma, before returning to Cedar Rapids for one more year in the USHL and to finish high school. After graduation Donovan will then play hockey at the University of Denver and hope to earn a shot at the pros.
“The Islanders have my draft rights, so when they think I’m ready they’ll offer me a contract,” Donovan said.