TORONTO â€” Wendel Clark was just the latest player have his Maple Leafs record wiped out, but more could be coming.
Auston Matthews broke Clark’s 31-year-old record with his 35th goal of the year Tuesday night, and the moment was marked when the two stood for a photo at Air Canada Centre shortly afterward. The California-born, Arizona-raised 19-year-old has fronted the Leafs historic rookie class, one that’s shattering records by the day.
A look at the most notable accomplishments of the big three along with those that could still lie ahead:
In addition to Clark’s record, Matthews also became the first player in NHL history to score four goals in a debut way back in October. He’s fired the most shots ever for a Leafs rookie and matched Dave Andreychuk’s team record for game-opening goals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, currently leading the NHL with 14.
“Going into the season you never really know what to expect,” Matthews said. “I don’t think you put any numbers in your head, you just want to go out and have fun and try to get better every day.”
Like most everyone in the hockey world, fellow rookie Mitch Marner had high expectations for Matthews, “but with what he’s actually done I don’t think anyone really thought he was going to be able to be this good.
“Thirty-five goals in a first season is pretty spectacular and we’ve still got more games left that he can accomplish more.”
Indeed, Matthews needs only five points over the final seven games to break Peter Ihnacak’s franchise rookie scoring record and is already even with Gus Bodnar (1943-44) for the second-best ever. He has a real shot at becoming only the second NHL rookie, mind you, since 1995 to score 40 goals â€” potentially joining Alex Ovechkin, who had 52 for Washington.
“He’s an amazing goal-scorer,” said William Nylander, chasing and breaking records himself. “He’ll score from chances that are nothing and somehow put it in the net.”
Matthews (or perhaps Marner or Nylander) could become the first Leaf since Brit Selby in 1966 to win the Calder trophy as the league’s top rookie.
“You just watch him every night and he just does thing you don’t expect anyone else to do,” Nylander said.
The flashy 20-year-old has already set a new team rookie record with a 12-game point streak that’s also the longest in the NHL this season. Only four other NHL rookies since 1994 have point streaks that long, including Teemu Selanne, Nathan MacKinnon, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Paul Stastny.
Nylander, the first pick of the Brendan Shanahan era in 2014, will break franchise rookie marks with one more power-play goal (he has nine) and power-play point (25) and he needs just three assists to join Marner in matching yet another team rookie mark â€” totalling 37 so far this season.
The Swede already owns the fourth-highest scoring rookie season in team history, equalling Bob Nevin (1960-61) with 58 points. He needs just five points to top Bodnar for the second-best such mark and eight to equal Ihnacak for top spot.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Nylander had an “elite shot” and was an “elite skater and he’s really competing at a whole ‘nother level than he was in the past.”
With at least a point in his next six games Nylander would equal Ed Olczyk and Darryl Sittler’s franchise record with an 18-game point streak. He could set the new team record with a point in every game the rest of the way.
The coolest among the rookies of late â€” and apparently under the weather, according to Babcock â€” Marner has still matched Bodnar for the franchise rookie record with 40 assists, needing just one to claim it as his own.
With 57 points, he’s also equalled Steve Thomas’ 1985-86 campaign as the fifth-best for a rookie in team history and like Nylander and Matthews, has a chance to climb even higher.
By season’s end, Matthews, Nylander and Marner could claim the three highest-scoring rookie seasons in Leafs history.
Zach Hyman has already established a new franchise rookie mark with four shorthanded goals, meanwhile, snapping the mark of two held by Gus Mortson, Jimmy Jones and Russ Courtnall.
Nikita Zaitsev, too, has played the most minutes of any Leafs rookie, according to available franchise data.
According to Hockey Reference, the Leafs also recently became the first team since the Flames and Flyers in 1984 to have five rookies with at least 10 goals and one of only nine teams in NHL history. They’re only the second team ever to have five rookies with at least 30 points â€” joining the 1980 Edmonton Oilers â€” and could become the second club to have three rookies with at least 60 points, matching the 1981 Quebec Nordiques.
In short, history.
“Everyone’s always pumped up about the young guys, but in the end you’ve got to be good guys,” Babcock said. “Not just good young guys, you’ve got to be good guys. That’s how you win.”
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press