We are witnessing something truly special with Auston Matthews right now.
There have been many an elite goalscorer in the rich history of the National Hockey League, and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews is riding a rapid trajectory towards joining the upper-echelons of the true greats.
We have covered Matthews in depth on this site and just last week I penned my sheer awe at the godly level he has been playing at a month or so into the 2020-21 NHL season. However, fast forward a week later and the superstar center has seemingly elevated his game to a whole new stratosphere.
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I also explored the possibility of everyone’s favorite GQ model in the NHL doing the unthinkable by recording 50 goals in 56 games and, while some may have scoffed at that mere suggestion at the time, well it is looking pretty likely right now.
With the Maple Leafs beating the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 in a big showdown at the top of the North Division on Saturday night, all the headlines belonged to Mitch Marner who is also playing at an MVP level with 30 points (9 G, 21 A) in 19 games, and of course Matthews who carved out another insane night.
He recorded two goals and two assists for back-to-back four-point nights, taking his points tally to 29 for the season, putting him in elite company with Marner and the star-studded Edmonton Oilers duo of Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. But, more noteworthy was the fact that Matthews has now scored 18 goals in 18 games.
Auston Matthews has greatest goalscorer ever crown in his sights
Why is that so significant? Well, it hasn’t happened a lot in the rich history of the NHL and Auston Matthews actually became the first player in 15 years – since the 2005-06 season – to achieve that rare feat.
Oh, and just to hammer home just how impressive that is, Matthews has more goals than 14 teams in the NHL currently have points. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.
Anyway, Matthews leads the entire National Hockey League in goals by a margin of six, and there just seems no stopping the lethal sharpshooter right now. I mean, his shooting percentage is at a godly 24 percent and, while that may regress at some point, he’s still going to be on a torrid pace and I think you would be safe at this point putting a large amount of money on the 23-year-old scoring 50 goals in just 56 games.
Everything the pivot touches is turning to gold right now and he ranks 1st in 5v5 goals and is second in 5v5 expected goals, per Evolving-Hockey. Translation: Auston Matthews is playing at the peak of his powers and he’s the most feared and potent pure scorer in the NHL right now. Period.
Just look at his shot and that absolutely incredible, wicked release that basically gives goalies no chance as soon as the stick makes contact with the puck. There’s very few players in the history of the game that boast a dynamic and unique shot such as Matthews’, and he’s taking full advantage of that fact this year.
As a result of his sheer and utter dominance, Matthews is making history and he made some on Saturday night when he overtook Syl Apps with the most points (314) through his first 300 NHL games when debuting with the Maple Leafs. Pretty impressive.
More impressive, though, is the fact that he’s been operating at a pretty crazy pace when it comes to lighting the lamp ever since entering the NHL in 2016-17, and that is accounting for the fact that Matthews has lost games because of injury and the COVID-19 Pandemic.
However, despite that, he has a career goals-per-game rate of 0.59, which puts him in elite company with Hall of Famers such as Mike Bossy, Mario Lemieux, Pavel Bure, Alex Ovechkin and, of course, Wayne Gretzky.
Matthews is tied for 10th with Glenn Anderson and Alexander Mogilny when it comes to amount of goals scored in the first 300 games of an NHL career, while he’s fifth on that list if you just consider even-strength goals (132), per James Mirtle of The Athletic.
And the scary thing is that Matthews isn’t even 25-years-old yet so, not only is he only going to get better with age, but he’s still a few years away from hitting his prime which suggests that not only is the best yet to come, but that he is also incredibly capable of now kicking on and establishing himself as one of the best-ever goalscorers in the history of the NHL.
The crown is there for the taking.
It is also no coincidence, and I’ve written about this before, that Matthews is playing arguably the best hockey of his career in a year where he has really committed to all aspects of his game and really polished the defensive side of his game.
He currently boasts a 53.3 percent win rate in the faceoff circle, he already has 19 blocked shots, 22 hits and 15 Takeaways, and he’s making big plays in all three zones while making more of an effort to battle hard in the dirty areas and do the little things and take care of the intangibles that go into making a truly great player in this league.
In other words, Auston Matthews has matured his game this year and it is resulting in him taking that next giant leap in his career.
And, while it is still early in the season coupled with the fact that there are only 56-games, it does seem as though the stud center will run away with the Rocket Richard Trophy this year, and he could well be a heavy favorite for both the Hart Trophy and the Selke Trophy given his current elite level of play. Not only that, but if Auston Matthews can maintain his current pace then he could end up carving out one of the most impressive and historic goalscoring seasons of all time, putting him well on course to eventually take the crown of one of the best pure goalscorers in the history of the National Hockey League.