High quality AHL defenders aren’t growing on trees in every minor league town across North America. Sure there are really good ones floating around in both conferences of the league, but when it comes to the puck moving variety – Oklahoma has the lock down, and none currently play for the Barons.
Last week, Justin Schultz was named the AHL Defenseman of the Year which hadn’t been given to a rookie in its 55 year history. Scoring eighteen goals and thirty assists in 34 games, it was a pace that the league had never seen before, and will likely never see again. We have the lockout to thank for that one. But someone else equaled the point totals of Justin Schultz and it took a full seventy to get there, but the Oklahoma ties are worth pointing out.
Matt Donovan, born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, and now playing with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, is a part of the youthful emergence of hockey in this state, despite the fact that he’s a long way from home. To have one of our own, born and raised, playing so well and in the NHL from time to time, makes the years of CHL, now AHL, and organized youth hockey worth the effort and worthy of our attention. If he can do it, so can anyone with enough talent and hard work. That’s huge for this state, and for the Donovan family.
With two assists on the final day of play, Donovan tied Justin Schultz for the most points scored by a defenseman in the AHL in 2012-2013. The narrative is simple. Justin Schultz, a player who debuted in OKC, wows the masses with his point totals, but fine tunes his first moments of pro hockey in a state not known for pucks and sticks. Meanwhile, a guy that is proof that hockey players can emerge from anywhere, finishes second to Schultz. In hockey terms, one may have been built in OKC, but the other is literally building it. Building a future for players like himself that were born in the great state of Oklahoma.
Well done to both gentlemen.