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At the Rink blog

Oklahoma native Donovan set to make NHL history

Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 12:48 PM

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer / At the Rink blog

NEWARK, N.J. -- Larry and Katherine Donovan were getting ready to head home to Oklahoma from Bridgeport, Conn., on Monday after watching their 22-year-old son Matt play for the Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.

They never left. Matt got in touch with them just in time to deliver an exciting message.

He was headed to the show to play for the New York Islanders.

"They were boarding a flight when I got the call," Donovan said Tuesday morning from Prudential Center, where he will make his NHL debut against the Devils. "They didn't get on the plane. They got their bags off the plane, and they're going to make the drive here."

Donovan, a fourth-round pick by the Islanders in the 2008 NHL Draft, will be paired with Dylan Reese in his NHL debut. Donovan is an offensive defenseman and he leads all Sound Tigers blueliners with 42 points on 10 goals and 32 assists this season.

He's also unique to the NHL in that he is from Oklahoma. He will be the first Oklahoman born, raised, and trained in the state to play in the NHL.

"My dad is from Boston, so he got me into hockey and he runs ice rinks in Oklahoma," Donovan said. "That's how I got into it and I've been a rink rat my whole life."

Donovan left home at 16 to play midget hockey in Dallas. He went on to play for Cedar Rapids in the USHL and then the University of Denver, where he starred for two seasons before signing his entry-level contract with the Islanders. He won gold with Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championship, scoring 5 points and posting a plus-6 rating.

"Being the first kid from Oklahoma in the World Juniors, I just tried to take it all in and play every game like it was my last," Donovan said.

He said he's going to try to treat the game Tuesday as any other, but said he realizes that will be difficult because of his nerves.

"It really hasn't hit me that tonight is the night that I'm going to be playing my first NHL game, but I'm excited and ready to play," Donovan said. "Just try to do the exact same thing I would in Bridgeport. Keep the same game-day ritual: go back to the hotel, eat, try to take a nap. I don't know how well that is going to go with the nerves going and the excitement, but just try to keep the same routine and hopefully my nerves don't get the best of me."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl


It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery