Auston Matthews officially owns top rookie season in Leafs history

Matthews officially owns top rookie season in Leafs history

If it wasn’t evident already, it’s now official.

Auston Matthews has put together the finest rookie season in the 100-year history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, now with the record for both goals (39) and points (67). The 19-year-old shattered Peter Ihnacak’s franchise rookie mark with his 67th point of the season on Monday night â€” a goal five minutes into a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Matthews has been smashing records almost every game recently.

He scored his 35th goal of the year last week against the Florida Panthers to break Wendel Clark’s 31-year-old franchise record for a rookie, also tying Dave Andreychuk’s team record with his 14th game-opening goal.

Matthews broke Clark’s record at a point when goals are at a far higher premium than they were in 1986. The first player picked first overall by the Leafs since Clark in 1985, Matthews also has 28 assists while earning the most minutes (almost 18 per-game) of any Toronto forward this season.

California-born and Arizona-raised, Matthews potted a pair of goals against the Detroit Red Wings a few days later, the latter standing as his eighth game-winner of the season to equal Howie Meeker for another franchise rookie record — one that was set way back in the 1946-47 season. He needs one more game-winning goal to break that mark and one more to top Neal Broten (1981-82) for the most ever by an American rookie.

One more power-play goal and Matthews will match another Leafs franchise rookie record — one that William Nylander already equalled earlier in the year.

“He’s an amazing goal-scorer,” Nylander said of Matthews recently. “You just watch him every night and he just does thing you don’t expect anyone else to do.”

He could become only the second rookie in the last 20 years to score 40 goals, joining Alex Ovechkin who had 52 for the Washington Capitals in 2005-06. 

Matthews started his NHL career by becoming the first player in history to score four goals in a debut. He’s the leading candidate to become the Leafs first Calder trophy winner since Brit Selby in 1966.

Monday’s goal also set another benchmark for the franchise. Matthews had scored in five consecutive games, tying the Maple Leafs rookie goal streak record set by Gaye Stewart in 1942.

He’s not the only Leafs rookie to equal or break records this season.

Nylander set a new first-year franchise mark with a 12-game point streak, equalling a team rookie records for power-play points in addition to power-play goals. Mitch Marner, meanwhile, has established a new franchise rookie bar for assists, Nikita Zaitsev for ice-time and Zach Hyman for short-handed goals.

The Leafs also became only the second team in NHL history after the 1981 Quebec Nordiques to have three rookies hit the 60-point plateau – Nylander and Marner joining Matthews on Monday night.

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press