First Pass at Greatness
Auston Matthews may have only made his NHL debut this week against the Ottawa Senators – but he’s already making history. At 19 years old, Auston was the first player ever to score four goals in his first game, and only the fifth to score a hat trick in their NHL opener. That puts him among others like Derek Stepan and Real Cloutier who also managed to pull off a hat trick in their first games.
Now that’s a photo op. #TMLtalk pic.twitter.com/nRRGff50UQ
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 13, 2016
Journey to the Top
So who is Auston Matthews? Besides being the first overall 2016 pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs and a self-proclaimed fan of Kobe Bryant, Matthews was born in Northern California and developed an affinity for hockey at a young age. In 2014, he helped the U.S. Under 17 Team and U.S. Under 18 Team win gold in the the World U17 Hockey Challenge and the U18 World Junior Championships. In 2015 he was voted MVP after leading the U18 World Junior Championship team to gold, and in 2016, he helped them win the bronze.
In place of a collegiate or junior career, Matthews took the road less traveled to prepare for his entry into the NHL by playing in Sweden for the ZSC Lions until he became eligible for the draft. Matthews’ season with the Lions culminated in a tie for seventh place in scoring with 24 goals and 46 points in only 36 games – an average of 1.28 points per game, fourth overall in the league.
This year, Auston Matthews was the first American to be selected first overall in the NHL draft in almost a decade. While his legacy in the league has only just begun – he’s already performing to critical acclaim.
Reactions Around the League
Several of Matthews’ fellow players, as well as retired legends Martin St. Louis and Teemu Selänne, chimed in with their reactions after Wednesday night’s game:
Feels like I’m watching mite hockey where there’s that one kid who’s just way better than everyone else. Congrats @AM34 #easygame
— Martin St Louis (@mstlouis_26) October 13, 2016
4ginos? No biggie… I think he’ll get 5. #crazy #Matthews
— Marian Gaborik (@MGaborik12) October 13, 2016
Most guys would be thrilled to score four in a month…. #easygame
— Viktor Stalberg (@VStalberg) October 13, 2016
@DerekStepan21 your 3 goals in Buffalo is not looking so impressive anymore…????
— Ryan Callahan (@TheRealCally24) October 13, 2016
I’ve just decided that Reims will play ALL of the games versus the leafs this year…… #Matthews
— Strombone (@strombone1) October 13, 2016
I don’t even know what to say. Just a treat to watch tonight @AM34
— Tyler Seguin (@tseguinofficial) October 13, 2016
Wow ???????????? Welcome to the NHL @AM34 ….Incredible young man! Keep it going ????
— Teemu Selanne (@TeemuSel8nne) October 13, 2016
Long Term Implications
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the NHL’s original six teams, but they’ve been down on their luck over the past few years. Auston Matthews is their first overall draft selection since 1985, and he may represent the best hope the team has had for decades to bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto – a place it hasn’t been since 1967. While it may be too early to tell if Matthews is going to be able to lead the Maple Leafs to the promised land, or a postseason berth, it’s definitely not too early to start hoping.
If you want to jump on the Matthews bandwagon, at the start of his career, head over to Fanatics.com where you can find everything you need to celebrate his success and show off your Maple Leaf pride!