BUFFALO, NY – Non-traditional hockey markets were in the spotlight at the 2016 Draft.
Scottsdale, Ariz. produced the first overall pick in Auston Matthews, and with the 34th pick overall, the Blue Jackets selected Andrew Peeke, a 6-foot-3, 205 lb. defenseman who grew up in south Florida as a fan of the Panthers.
“It’s awesome being able to represent south Florida hockey,” Peeke told BlueJackets.com. “Being able to grow up there and play in Florida until I was 14 and being able to have this type of experience…it’s just unbelievable.”
Peeke went to his first NHL game at age six, when his dad took him to a Florida Panthers game in Sunrise (his family has season tickets), and that’s where his hockey interest was born.
After playing in the Sunshine State, he left home at age 14 and headed to the Selects Hockey Academy. In 2014, Peeke was drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers, and in his first season, he put up 30 points (4-26-30) and was named to the USHL All-Rookie First Team.
Peeke isn’t just drawing attention for his play and his birthplace; he also added to the story that American skaters are writing at this year’s draft.
Peeke was the 13th American selected in the draft, adding to the record-setting 12 chosen in the first round on Friday. He was the 11th USHL product to hear his name called in Buffalo.
The next step for Peeke (after his first Blue Jackets development camp last week) will be heading to Notre Dame in the fall, which the 2016 USHL Scholar-Athlete of the Year says is the perfect blend of academic and hockey programs for him.
“Their hockey program is awesome, and I felt comfortable with their coaching staff that they’d be able to develop me as a defenseman,” Peeke said. “Academics are important to me as well and their school is top 15 university – it was the best of both worlds.”
Peeke is looking to continue to develop his game, particularly his skating, but he’s confident in his two-way play and hockey IQ.
And it all started in a place that used to be known more for its beaches than for its ice rinks.
“(Hockey is) expanding down in south Florida and other areas like California and Arizona,” Peeke said. “It’s where hockey is growing, and it’s an awesome thing to see.”