(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
The Return to Form of Auston Matthews
All NHL players should strive to have an “off” year and still manage to pot forty goals. Such was the case for Matthews last season as he fought through an expected nagging hand/wrist injury and a career-low 12.2 shooting percentage.
Fear not, Leaf fans, the “Rocket Man” (apologies to Elton John) has returned with a vengeance. Matthews ushered in the new NHL season with back-to-back hat tricks.
He became only the fifth player in NHL history to complete the feat to start a season.
With it, the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner gave a clear indication he intends to regain the coveted goal-scoring hardware.
While the 246 early-season goal projections were fun, the most important indicator is that Matthews is healthy. He is the Leafs most important player.
Matthews appears to get more and more comfortable with his role on the team with each passing year. He has experienced the hockey-mad market of Toronto and excelled.
He is more at ease in front of the media and the spotlight that surrounds him. He has come to embrace it.
Getting his contract extension completed before the season has allowed him to focus solely on his play. It shows by his results on the ice.
Matthews recently potted his seventh goal in the team’s sixth game of the season against the Washington Capitals. In 2022-2023, it took him sixteen games to reach seven goals.
A goal-a-game pace is likely unrealistic, but with his hot start, it is not out of the question that Matthews eclipses his career-high of sixty goals in a season.
Scoring goals at his normal, prolific rate is great news for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team will only go as far as its star players take them.