What a time to be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The club that was supposed to be lingering in the basement slot and fighting for a top lottery position has flipped the script on its head and is now on the verge of qualifying for the postseason.
It’s a turnaround that many people still think is absolutely unbelievable. Frederik Andersen, the former Anaheim Ducks goaltender, is a huge reason for the success and resurgence of the 2016-17 Leafs. He’s provided a calming presence between the pipes, something that the Leafs have lacked for the past few years.
Arguably the biggest members of the squad are the youngest players on it. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander are the catalysts on this Leafs team. The offense runs through them and they have captured the hearts of Toronto fans with their exciting and skilled play all year long.
Matthews the Record Breaker
Another day, another record broken by Matthews. The American-born pivot just keeps rewriting the Leafs record books. He’s now recorded 39 goals on the year and has blown by the previous rookie record set by Wendel Clark. He’s also captured the all-time Leafs rookie point record, which was set back in 1982-83 by Peter Ihnacak.
That record was 66 points, with Matthews now holding sole possession with his 67th point of the season. Matthews is also on the verge of a bit more history. The American has scored in five consecutive games and has tied the Leafs rookie goal streak record set by Gaye Stewart in 1942.
It’s an incredible season by the youngster that virtually no one saw coming. Many would have been happy with a campaign that saw him score 35 goals and 50 points. He’s eclipsed all expectations and is showing no signs of slowing down when the Leafs need him most.
Another incredible stat is his goal scoring. Out of his 39 tallies, 31 of them have come at even strength. That’s an incredibly valuable stat in a league where full strength scoring is a premium. He’s also scored the first goal of the game an astounding 14 times.
Auston Matthews ranks 2nd in the League in goals (39), 4th in game winning goals (8), and 6th in shots (268). Not bad for a 19 year old
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) April 4, 2017
Matthews is having arguably the best rookie season in the team’s 100-year history. He’s an elite player and should only get better as he acclimatizes to the league and adds muscle to his frame.
60 Points for Everyone
Much of the attention has been to Matthews for his incredible rookie year. Based on the season, it’s incredibly justified. The other Leafs’ rookies have taken notice and have put up astounding numbers of their own.
Nylander has 22 goals and 60 points on the year, much of which has been spent patrolling the wing of Matthews. The two have combined for a bevy of gorgeous plays that result more often than not in scoring chances and goals for the Blue and White.
Not to be outdone, Marner has hit the 60 point plateau as well. The slick and tenacious winger is one of the most dangerous players on the team and can beat you so many different ways. The former London Knight has elite vision and has been the catalyst for some many great Leaf moments this season.
The rookie accolades continue to roll in. Marner and Nylander have both hit the 60 point plateau, where combined with Matthews and his 67, they make the Leafs the second team in history to feature three rookies with 60 or more points.
With all the attention paid to the rookies, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the more veteran players. For instance, Nazem Kadri is having his best ever statistical season in the NHL. He’s hit 31 goals and 60 points to go along with his 93 penalty minutes.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 4, 2017
James van Riemsdyk is sitting two points shy of 60 and is an integral part of the Leafs roaring offense. His career best is 61 points and with four games left on the docket, the former second overall pick has a great chance of setting a new career high.
With a handful of games left and a playoff spot up for grabs, the Leafs will need to keep their momentum alive. The city of Toronto is holding its breath as the Buds make that final push to reach the promised land.