It was a big year for St. Louis youth hockey.
Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Wideman, a St. Louis native, couldn’t have been more proud of his hometown at the most recent NHL Draft, which featured five players selected in the first round.
“I think for a guy growing up in St. Louis, and for all the guys I played with and guys before me, it was just an unbelievable year for the city and for youth hockey,” Wideman said. “It was pretty special and it’s growing every year.”
Matthew Tkachuk and Clayton Keller were taken sixth and seventh overall, respectively, by the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes. Logan Brown and Luke Kunin were both selected among the top 15 players, picked No. 11 and No. 15, respectively, by the Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild. Trent Frederic, No. 28 by the Boston Bruins, rounded out the day for The Gateway City.
“I think the St. Louis hockey community is very small,” Wideman said. “It’s not like most of the other big cities in the country. It’s just very cool to see five kids get drafted in the first round. It’s a very tight community, so it’s something I’m definitely proud of.”
Like Wideman, all five players taken in the first round of the 2016 Draft played youth hockey for the St. Louis AAA Blues. Tkachuk, at No. 6, was the highest player from St. Louis ever selected.
“Hopefully kids are inspired,” Wideman said. “Hopefully, the next generation of players from St. Louis are inspired by the kids who were just drafted and it just takes off from there.”
Wideman recalls watching Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull as a youth, but he also pointed to current players like Ben Bishop and Pat Maroon who were also inspiring.
“Fortunately for me, growing up, I had a lot of ex-NHL players coach me the whole way,” Wideman said. “All of those guys had a big impact on all of us. You see some of those guys sticking around in coaching and they’re definitely helping this generation coming up, so it’s awesome to see.”
Wideman was initially inspired to try hockey thanks to his parents, who used to take him to St. Louis Blues games as a child.
“I just loved the game and I always wanted to play,” Wideman said. “It’s pretty funny because the guys I grew up playing with, we had all these ex-Blues players coaching us, but none of our parents could skate and none of our dads could play. Nobody’s dad really helped out the coach because they couldn’t stand up on the ice. It was one of those things where your parents dropped you off at the rink and you go play hockey for an hour or two and they pick you up. It’s fun because my parents learned the game through me playing and now they’re big fans.”
Wideman, in addition to playing for the St. Louis AAA Blues, played high school hockey at Chaminade College Preparatory School before playing in the United States Hockey League at Cedar Rapids. He spent a year at Miami University (Ohio) before the Ottawa Senators selected Wideman in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
Wideman made his NHL debut in October 2015 and played 64 games with the Senators, scoring six goals and 13 points. One of his career highlights came when Wideman represented his country in the 2016 IIHF World Championships, where the United States finished fourth.
“Any time you can represent your country in any event is obviously an honor,” Wideman said. “It’s just a great experience getting to meet guys that play around the league and meet guys you get to play against during the season. We were in Europe for about a month. It was a great start to the summer and a great experience.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.