It’s obvious by this point that you’ve heard of Auston Matthews. The young American sensation has taken the NHL by storm and might have even turned the heads of some casual hockey fans. That begs the question of whether Matthews is the guy to bring hockey to the forefront of American sports.
It’s not easy trying to compete with the juggernauts of basketball, football, and baseball, but hockey has always been a well-supported sport in the USA. The NHL features teams all across the Nation, and while some are better received than others, it still has massive appeal. Matthews is someone who can take the game to the next level and can get the average American fan interested in hockey again.
Hailing from Arizona, Matthews doesn’t come from a hockey-crazed area. In fact, Arizona might be one of the worst hockey markets in all of the NHL. The Coyotes have found it to be a struggle staying afloat in that region. However, Matthews might be the first player out of Arizona to make a huge impact in the NHL, possibly proving that hockey can succeed outside of the colder regions of America.
The NHL has been blessed to have two American hockey stars be selected with top picks in the NHL Draft. The first obviously being Matthews, who was the first overall pick in 2016, and the second was Jack Eichel, the second overall pick on 2015. Unfortunately, Eichel suffered an injury that will keep him out for a portion of his second season, but the upside is still through the roof. Matthews might be better than Eichel, a tough pill to swallow considering Matthews has only played a week of NHL hockey.
The one thing that many seem to forget about Matthews is his already impressive hockey resume. At the age of 18, Matthews played in Switzerland’s top professional hockey league and more than held his own with 46 points scored. The transition to the NHL will be a lot easier because of his play there. So far it’s looked simple for Matthews, who became the first player in the modern era to record four goals in his NHL debut.
The only drawback to Matthews leading the USA resurgence is that he’s currently playing for Toronto. It’s not going to be an easy feat getting him that real American exposure is playing in Canada. The same can be said for someone such as the Calgary Flames, Johhny Gaudreau, also known as Johhny Hockey. Both have the flair and skill to take over the American hockey scene, but can’t due to their location of teams.
Regardless of whether Matthews shows up on American television on a nightly basis is irrelevant. His story of getting to the NHL might inspire some youngsters in the areas of Phoenix and other lesser-known hockey areas to get into the sport at a young age. If he can inspire a new generation of hockey hopefuls, then that’s just as good as playing in America. Maybe one day it won’t seem out of the ordinary to have American talent dominate the hockey scene, and if it does, Auston Matthews has a lot of influence on that.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288