Coyotes captain Shane Doan: Auston Matthews is an 'even better person than player'

Shane Doan, Auston MatthewsGetty Images

At age 40, Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan continues to serve honorably as one of hockey's great ambassadors. While leading a rebuilding club last season, Doan enjoyed one of the better seasons of his 20-year pro career and paced the Coyotes with 28 goals. This season, Doan has been tasked with mentoring one of the league's youngest teams, which includes teammate Jakob Chychrun, an 18-year-old defenseman who was born almost three years after Doan was drafted, in 1995.

The arrival of all this young talent -- including Arizona native Auston Matthews, with whom Doan skated as part of the Coyotes' youth program -- makes Doan excited about the future of the game. Even if it does make him also feel kind of old.

ESPN.com: How complicated is it being a veteran on such a young team?

Shane Doan:?At one point we had nine guys 21 and under. That's pretty incredible. I don't think it's like that anywhere else in professional hockey, including the AHL or the East Coast League. Obviously, it's exciting for the future, but it's a little more difficult for the present.

ESPN.com: You have four teenage children. Does that help you deal with the kids on your team?

Doan: My oldest daughter is the same age as some of them. There are obviously similarities. But these guys are so mature. As a hockey player, you leave home when you're 15, 16 years old. It forces you to grow up. Our guys are great. They've handled themselves incredibly well. It's fun to be around them.

ESPN.com: Are younger players better prepared for the NHL today?

Doan: I think, because of social media, you get to see the day-to-day life of an NHL player a lot more. If you follow someone on Twitter or Instagram or whatever, you see what goes on a little bit more because of that. That makes it a little bit easier. You understand things you may not have understood in the past because there just wasn't exposure to it.

ESPN.com: Do you wish you had social media when you were younger?

Doan: No. I'm so glad, so thankful that I didn't. It's crazy how much it affects our day-to-day lives as players and how much it affects the young guys.

ESPN.com: What are the main differences today for young players compared with 20 years ago?

Doan: Their skill level. It all comes down to exposure. When someone in the Swedish Elite league makes an incredible move, then the kids everywhere get to watch it and practice it -- and it becomes part of the hockey community. I think it pushes the skill level so much quicker because everybody can see things and their imaginations are kind of expanded by being able to see what other guys are doing around the world. In the past, if you saw it on the late-night sports TV shows, it was pretty amazing, but you only saw it once. Now everyone watches it over and over and can break it down. I think that helps. The skill of the young guys is just incredible now.

ESPN.com: You're skating alongside players whose fathers you played with and against. Have you talked to any of them about playing with their dads?

Doan: I've played with quite a few of them.? Max Domi?and Connor Murphy. We've had? Philip Samuelsson?and Brett Hextall on the team. Getting to play against Matthew Tkachuk after playing with his dad, or Josh Manson in Anaheim. They were in our dressing room as kids when I was a player.

ESPN.com: Have you reminded them about how you saw them as kids in the dressing room?

Doan: For sure. Without a doubt. That's one of the things that, as a player, you remember. Matty and Josh were so young, they don't really remember. But my daughter is the same age as Matty. They were both born here [in Arizona]. I've gotten to know Josh as he got older. It's exciting. It's fun. You feel old, but you enjoy it, for sure.

ESPN.com: Do you ever chat with Matthew Tkachuk about how you bought and moved into his childhood home in Arizona?

Doan: Oh, yeah. We have horses here and Matty would come out and go riding at the farm. It was fun.

ESPN.com: You skated with Auston Matthews while he was in the Coyotes youth program. What do you remember about him as an emerging young player?

Doan: I got to know his family a little bit. His mom and dad go to the same church that we go to. He's an unbelievable kid. He's an even better person than player, and that's exciting because he's an incredible player.

ESPN.com: Was his talent evident right away?

Doan: The first time he skated with us, it was just shinny. I think his team won or lost 5-4. He had all his team's goals and it was against NHL guys, and he was a year away from being drafted. I was pretty impressed.

ESPN.com: How important is it for youth hockey players in Arizona to see someone like Auston make it?

Doan: It's huge for us. It gives validation to an organization like the Junior Coyotes. Any time anyone asks how the program is, you can say Auston Matthews grew up in the program. That's huge for minor hockey and grass roots.

ESPN.com: Your general manager, John Chayka, is more than a decade your junior. How often does he come to you with questions?

Doan: He's not afraid to come and ask for your opinion. But at the end of the day he's the one who makes the decisions. That's the way it goes. As much as I think every player wants his opinions heard, it's not our [call]. He's very professional in that he asks questions and wants to gain perspective from people who might have experienced a few things. At the same time, he recognizes it's his call and he makes those decisions when he needs to.

ESPN.com: You're coming off one of your best statistical seasons, but have you given any thought to retirement?

Doan: It crosses your mind daily. But you don't make those decisions on a daily basis. Ten days ago, if you had asked me I probably would have retired on the spot. Today if you asked me, I think I'd sign a five-year deal. It kind of goes back and forth. You understand you can't make rash decisions like that. It has to be something you make over the course of the year. I kind of approached last year the same way I approach this year. I'll just see how I feel at the end.