Welcome to Perry’s Posits, where I (Perry Port) predict the future on the most trending topics in the world of sports. Although I may have the manners and politeness of a small-towner (or, so my mom tells me), I’m checking them at the door as I bring out some raw, heated passion in this recurring feature. If you thought your French Roast from Starbucks this morning was full-bodied and bold, then your taste buds are in for a rude awakening.
The first topic I’m serving up is what the future holds for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ super-rookie, Auston Matthews. My debut may not be as successful as his four-goal NHL intro, but hopefully I can find the back of the net at least once. Was his four-goal effort a sign for what’s coming, or will this godly debut serve as his most memorable game as a pro?
Here’s Perry’s Position on the matter.
Perry’s Position – Auston Matthews
Coming off of a season where they finished with the fewest points in the league, largely due to the fact they couldn’t score (28th in goals-for), the Toronto Maple Leafs had their prayers answered. After winning the draft lottery, the Leafs used the first-overall selection on American center Auston Matthews, who had spent the previous year playing against men in the Swiss A League.
However, most Leafs fans believed they had won the lottery a year late, as hometown phenom Connor McDavid was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft. Matthews was viewed as someone who could evolve into a top line center, but he wasn’t a generational talent like McDavid.
Well, Matthews certainly changed that narrative quickly. After becoming the only player to ever net four goals in his first NHL game, Matthews has Leafs fans brushing the dust off their parade plans while dubbing him the franchise’s saving grace. But should we all join the city of Toronto (and U.S. Hockey) on the hype-train and allow our expectations of Matthews to near Gretzky heights?
Don’t let them go quite that high, but this kid is the real-deal.
Whether I am legitimizing your beliefs in Matthews, ridding you of your negativity, or even weathering your sky-high expectations, I am here to tell you just how good Toronto’s newest star is and will become.
While most pundits are on board with Matthews’ greatness (some overly so), detractors are also out there. Let’s answer the naysayers and optimists, alike, one pessimistic criticism/insane hyperbole at a time.
Three of his four goals were lucky; he was in the right place at the right time.
I can’t argue that three of his goals were set up by nice passes from teammates, but I will argue the “luck” factor involved.
What Matthews displayed on those three goals was a lot of the little things that you don’t expect from a rookie. To me, those three goals showcased a player who keeps his stick on the ice, possesses the hockey sense to find quiet zones, has the strength and willingness to battle in front of the net, has a quick trigger and smooth hands, and knows how to bury his scoring opportunities.
We knew that Matthews had play-making ability, but weren’t sure how mature and polished his game was. Those three goals answered the latter.
If you prefer to call that “luck,” then that’s your prerogative.
Matthews is already the greatest Leaf of all-time.
Let’s pump the brakes a little here.
Trying to compare this 19-year-old to the likes of Dave Keon, Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, and even Mats Sundin is jumping the gun. Those men had legendary careers, not just one great game as a Leaf.
Does he have the potential to become the greatest Leaf of all-time? Absolutely. Will this happen over the next couple of years? Of course not. Give him ten years.
However, I don’t see it taking him that long to surpass Tomas Kaberle on the Leafs top-100.
Matthews is a lock for the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year).
A lock? No, but only because I refuse to call anything in sports a lock.
Auston Matthews will win the Calder, though. Sorry, Patrick Laine.
Matthews has a shot at breaking Teemu Selanne’s rookie record of 76 goals in a season.
Unfortunately, he’s no longer on his four-goals-per-game pace thanks to getting blanked in Toronto’s second game. I guess 164 on the season isn’t bad, either.
I jest. That won’t happen. Neither will 77. No one, rookie or veteran, has come close to that mark in the last decade.
Matthews will surpass the 50-goal plateau with ease.
Although it looks like more goals are on the horizon now that goaltenders have had to trim the fat off their equipment, there is still nothing easy about scoring 50 in one season. Since the shortened season in 2012-13, only one player has reached 50 goals in a season, and that’s Alexander Ovechkin.
As impressive as Matthews looked in his debut, we need to recognize how bad Ottawa played defensively as well. Not every team will give up those kinds of scoring chances. Plus, the rookie has now caught the attention of the rest of the league, and coaches will be scheming to stop him.
But that won’t prevent him from scoring 30.
Matthews has a shot at winning the Hart Memorial Trophy.
He has a shot, sure. But, do to be short, it’s a very, very long shot. This award generally goes to the player who leads a playoff-bound team in goals/points, far outdoing his teammates. That won’t be Matthews this season. He might be Toronto’s top scorer – maybe even by a wide margin – but the Leafs aren’t headed for the post-season.
Next season could be a different story, though.
The Leafs should put the C on his chest right now.
No, they should not. Matthews will be named captain of the Maple Leafs, but it won’t be until next season at the earliest.
Hopefully this franchise learned something from prematurely awarding Dion Phaneuf the captaincy.
Since Matthews plays for the Leafs, he’ll never win a Cup.
The franchise has rid itself of the core responsible for the disastrous seasons that haunt the fan-base. Mike Babcock is a winning coach, and thanks to some great draft picks over the last few years, the shelves are stocked with talent.
Matthews’ four-goal debut has overshadowed some great games from fellow rookies Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Zach Hyman, while Morgan Rielly continues to show improvement on the back-end.
If this wasn’t already bold enough, this should take it over the top: Matthews and these other youngsters will lead Toronto to a Stanley Cup within the next five years.
Patrik Laine was the best player available in the 2016 Draft.
Nope. Not even close. Laine has a ton of potential, but Matthews will prove to be the superior player this season, as well as over the course of their respective careers.
Matthews will outscore Connor McDavid this season.
McDavid is currently averaging more than a point per game in the NHL, and has six points through three games this season. The Oilers’ new captain seems to be benefiting from the team clearing some of their other first-overall picks out of his way, and he looks like the best player in the game right now.
The two will not be far apart in goals, but McDavid will top him by a good margin when it comes to points. Try 30.
But that’s just this year. The two will take turns winning the Hart Trophy over the next ten seasons.
Photo credit: Pumpido75 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.