Coming into the 2008 NHL Draft, Matt Martin was a 19-year-old kid who had just finished his second season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Sarnia Sting. He finished third on the Sting in 2007-08 in goals (25), and second in penalty minutes (155). Numbers like that would normally lead to high expectations and a ticket to the Draft, but in Martin’s case, it was not an automatic decision.
“I talked to my agent and my family and we thought it would be really tough if you were there and didn’t get picked,” Martin said. “We’ve seen that happen to people before and I’m sure that’s not a lot of fun.”
So Martin watched the draft at home in Windsor, ONT with his family, hoping to hear his name called sometime over the course of the day. From the interviews he had done with NHL clubs over the past year, he thought he had an idea of which teams were most interested.
“I talked to a handful of teams before the draft and there were some that I thought were more interested than others.,” Martin said. “Actually, with the Islanders, I did their psych test right at the beginning of the season and I don’t think I talked to them again all year. I know their scouts came to a lot of games and watched, but I didn’t know that they were interested.”
Martin actually thought he was going to be selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Earlier in the draft, the Lightning selected Steven Stamkos, Martin’s linemate with Sarnia, with the No. 1 overall pick. Knowing he was probably going to be selected somewhere between the 5th and 7th rounds, Martin was watching when Tampa Bay used their fifth-round pick on a player from the Brampton Battalion named Kyle DeCoste.
“Tampa was one of the first teams that I had talked to that was coming up to pick and as it gets later and later you start getting more nervous,” Martin said. “I was watching that pick closely and when it didn’t happen, I mean, there was a lot of time left I guess. They started interviewing the kid that got drafted and I didn’t really see the next pick on TV.”
That next pick? It belonged to the New York Islanders, who selected Martin 148th overall.
“We got a phone call at the house that was from Garth Snow that said I was just picked so it was definitely exciting.”
Although Martin would have conversations with many people later that day, that first call from the Islanders General Manager sticks out.
“He just said ‘Congratulations, we’ve selected you in the NHL Draft. Welcome to the Islanders.”
After talking with Snow and his agent, and receiving countless phone calls and texts from friends and family, it was time for Martin to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“We weren’t sure I was getting picked so I didn’t really want to be around too many people,” Martin said. “After I got picked all of my friends ended up meeting up with me and we celebrated.”
But there was still one thing missing. Every player selected at the draft receives a jersey and an official draft hat on stage from their new NHL team. Since Martin was absent from the event, his teammate from junior hockey had to take his place.
“Stamkos is a good friend of mine,” Martin said. “He knew I wasn’t there so he went up and got my jersey for me. They even did an interview with him after. He picked it up and delivered it home for me. I think I got it sometime the next week. It was cool getting the draft hat and draft jersey, but just being picked itself was a special moment for me and my family.”