Introducing The Hockey Writers’ Countdown to Puck Drop series. From now until the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL’s regular season on Oct. 2 when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators, we’ll be producing content that’s connected to the number of days remaining on that particular day. Some posts may be associated with a player’s number, while others will be connected to a year or length of time. We’re really excited about this series as we take you through the remainder of summer in anticipation of the return of NHL hockey.
We are 34 days away from the start of the NHL season and what better way to celebrate than to highlight Toronto Maple Leafs superstar, Auston Matthews. It’s no doubt that Matthews has made his mark on the league. Heading into his fourth season, the soon to be 22-year-old has already scored 111 goals and has registered 205 points in 212 games. Impressive numbers already and they will continue to increase.
In his young NHL career, Matthews has had many memorable and highlight-worthy moments in his career, which could make more than one Top 10 list. This is what we’re going to do here as part of The Hockey Writers Countdown Series. From singing on the bench, to his most memorable goals, here are Matthews’ Top 10 moments of his career so far.
10. NHL 20 Cover Athlete
Matthews was given the honour of being named the cover athlete for EA Sports™ NHL® 20 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas this past June. Matthews joins a long list of players such as Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane and P.K. Subban to grace the cover of the famous video game franchise.
Very few can say that they’re on the cover of a video game. “Growing up I always admired all the players who got to be on the cover of the game. This is a very cool honor and I am proud to represent my organization,” Matthews said in an article from NHL.com. There’s no doubt the sales will go through the roof for this year’s installment of the game, especially in Toronto.
9. Bench Karaoke
In a game where things were getting out of hand, which included a line brawl against the Vancouver Canucks, both Mitch Marner and Matthews decided to go into full-on karaoke mode. While on the bench during a stoppage in play, the two rookies (at the time), sang along to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”. While the emotion wasn’t as good as Marner’s, it’s still fun to see players have fun. I mean who doesn’t like to burst out into song?
8. Centennial Classic Game-Winner
On Jan. 1, 2017, the Maple Leafs had the honour of hosting an outdoor game for the Leafs’ and the NHL’s 100th season. It was what an outdoor game should be — entertaining for everyone watching at home or freezing in the cold. The game was tied at 4-4 and had to go to overtime. With 1:27 left to go in overtime, it was Matthews’ time to shine.
After a shot from Jake Gardiner bounced off the end boards, Matthews was able to find the loose puck and chip it by goaltender Jared Coreau. While the goal was great, given the magnitude of an important celebration for the team at the time, the celebration and emotion from Matthews is what we all love. Scoring a big goal, in a big moment.
7. Honouring Marleau
At the 2019 All-Star Game in San Jose, Matthews took part in the shooting accuracy challenge. As he was stepping up, he took off his Maple Leafs jersey to unveil a Patrick Marleau All-Star jersey, honouring the veteran and long-time Shark. As expected, he was greeted with a loud standing ovation from the crowd. A class act and a sign of respect from the Maple Leaf star after Marleau took him under his wing.
6. No-Look Assist Against the Capitals
While Matthews is known for his shot, he’s quite capable of making great passes. Fresh off the game-winning goal in the Centennial Classic, he made a highlight-reel assist against the Washington Capitals. After breaking free from the pressure of Nicklas Backstrom, Matthews then made a slick deke to get by Brooks Orpik and followed it up with a no-look, spin-o-rama pass to Leo Komarov for the goal.
5. Welcome to Toronto
During the World Cup of Hockey, the Toronto crowd got a taste of what Matthews could do before his first game as a Maple Leaf with Team North America. In a game against Team Sweden, Matthews started the game with Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele. The line started off strong.
McDavid had a burst of speed to enter the offensive and split the defense to get a shot on net. After the shot Matthews located the loose puck to regain possession while making a slick move, on his knees, against defenseman Victor Hedman. He found future teammate, Morgan Rielly, for another shot on net before Matthews buried the rebound for an early 1-0 lead. Team North America went on to win in overtime, but this was an impressive unofficial debut for Matthews.
4. Buzzer Beater in Buffalo
Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer beater against the Philadelphia 76ers will be one to remember for the city of Toronto. But months before “The Shot,” Matthews had a shot of his own.
On Dec. 4, the Maple Leafs went to overtime against the Buffalo Sabres. With 10 seconds left, and the puck deep in Toronto’s end, Kasperi Kapanen carried the puck up quickly to enter the Sabres’ zone. With six seconds left, Kapanen dropped the puck for Matthews as he sniped top corner past Linus Ullmark with 2.7 seconds remaining on the clock. The emotion from Matthews afterwards said it all.
3. Matthews and Patrick Kane Exchange Celebrations
This was another wild game involving two of the sport’s best players.
With John Tavares netting a hat-trick and the Maple Leafs up 5-4, the Chicago Blackhawks pulled their goalie. Patrick Kane eventually scored to tie the game up at five. Twenty-two seconds later, Matthews came up clutch with a big goal of his own giving the Maple Leafs a 6-5 lead. Following the goal, Matthews held his hand up to his ear, as if telling the crowd, “I can’t hear you.”
Just when you thought it was over, Kane ripped a one-timer past former goalie Garrett Sparks and mocked Matthews with a hand-over-his-ear celebration of his own. Matthews couldn’t believe it, nor could anyone else. It was great to see that kind of friendly ribbing from both players.
2. Good Goal
After just having a goal called back against the Colorado Avalanche for goaltender interference, Matthews wanted revenge. With William Nylander carrying the puck and getting a shot off, Matthews got the rebound and made an emphatic “good goal” call, mocking the referees.
Many calls for the Leafs have not gone their way. What better way to rub it in the faces of those who took it away in the first place. In terms of goal celebrations, this one is definitely unique and memorable.
1.Hit ‘Em with the Four
Everyone will remember this historic night. Whether you’re a Maple Leafs fan or not, you can’t deny that this was an absolutely phenomenal performance from Matthews in his NHL debut.
This video says it all. Joe Bowen helps us relive the night when Matthews hit ‘em with the four.
Hockey has been a big part of my life since watching my first Leafs game to currently coaching minor hockey. I previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. Aside from hockey, I also enjoy drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.