Auston Matthews continues to set records for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and there is still a lot more for fans to look forward to.
February has already been a rewarding month for Auston Matthews. First, he signed a five-year contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which will pay him an average of $11.634 million per season.
This was followed by scoring in Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche. In the process, Matthews became the only player in franchise history to score 25 goals in each of his first three seasons.
Have you managed to catch your breath yet? Good, because we’re still not quite finished.
On Thursday night, Matthews scored twice in a 6-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. The first goal was especially significant, as it represented his 100th strike as a member of the Leafs.
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As a result, the 21-year-old reached 100 goals faster than any other Leaf in the modern era. Overall, he is essentially averaging a point per game, with 185 total points in 187 NHL appearances.
The scary thing for opponents is that you get the feeling Matthews is only just getting started. As long as he remains healthy, he has a long NHL career to look forward to, with him having the chance to become the best player in Leafs history.
Among today’s top young talent, we would still say Connor McDavid is better overall when compared to Matthews. However, when it comes to projecting who will be the game’s best player over the next decade, the gap between the two is not that significant.
Regardless, there is no denying Matthews’ impact on the Leafs. It helps that he just enjoys playing the game and often rises to the occasion.
Consider the 21-year-old’s comments about Thursday night’s game in Vegas. As reported by the Associated Press via Sports Illustrated, he said:
"“I like playing here. The two times we’ve been here the atmosphere is unbelievable, the fans are into it. When you’re the opposing team it’s an easy game to get into, when the crowd, and the atmosphere, the music and everything is like it is. It’s like a big party, so it’s fun to play in.”"
You know things are going well, when coach Mike Babcock sings your praises. As per Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston, Babcock said:
"“I just think this last three games has been his best three games in a long time. He’s really skating and the more he skates, the more he has the puck and it goes in.”"
There sky really is the limit for Matthews. There are only two concerns, and you can make an argument that they are both relatively minor.
The first surrounds the San Ramon, California native’s durability. Are his shoulder injuries now a thing of the past, or will they be a recurring issue throughout his playing career?
The second concern regards Matthews’ first two forays into the postseason. So far in 13 appearances he has recorded seven overall points, with his two points in seven playoff games last season particularly standing out.
In defence of the 2016 first overall pick, however, this can partly be attributed to inexperience and being the focus of opposing teams. He is still developing, and given his ridiculous talent along with his tremendous upside, there is little reason to believe he won’t perform better on the big stage moving forward.
Overall, there is a lot for Leafs fans to look forward to, when it comes to Matthews. Here’s to his next 100 goals, and don’t be surprised if it takes him less time to reach the 200 mark.
What has impressed you most about Matthews, during his three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs? How confident are you that he’s prepared to take the next step in his development, when we reach this year’s playoffs? Share your thought in the comments section below.