The NHL’s newest phenom learned his hockey skills on the rinks of suburban Phoenix, and that’s opening the eyes of kids all over nontraditional hockey markets.

Auston Matthews, the 19-year-old sensation for the Toronto Maple Leafs who was taken first overall in 2016, had an unusual path to stardom. But his story is inspiring others to consider picking up a hockey stick instead of a bat or a tennis racket.

“I think so,” Matthews said when asked if he can be a role model for kids in the South. “You’ve already got guys from Florida and Texas that kids can look up to. There’s not just one path to the NHL, so I would think you could be a model.”
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