Since the 2005-06 season when the NHL brought itself into a new era, 33 players have scored 20 or more goals in their rookie year. Headlined by the unbelievable rookie campaigns of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin (the latter of which who scored more than 50, the first of seven such seasons) it’s a group of all-stars and perhaps even more than a handful of hall of fame players. It also includes Petr Prucha and Peter Mueller, showing that it’s not a guarantee for success though a pretty good indicator.
This year, the group will likely have a handful of entrants. With players like Patrik Laine in Winnipeg and Matthew Tkachuk in Calgary having great success, this may be the best rookie crop in years. But today it’s Toronto that took the rookie spotlight, with Mitch Marner, Connor Brown and Auston Matthews all scoring in the Centennial Classic. Matthews, who scored twice (including the overtime winner) has already punched his ticket as the 34th player to score 20 as a rookie in the salary cap era.
The rookie phenom now has 32 points in 36 games, and is on pace to score more goals that even Crosby did as a rookie. The league hasn’t seen a teenager score 40 goals in his rookie season since Eric Lindros did it in 1992-93, and there may be two (with Laine) that do it this year. That exclusive group includes just five players: Lindros, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Dale Hawerchuk and Sylvain Turgeon.
When you add Connor McDavid to the teenage mix (though no longer a rookie), it’s an unbelievable group that is doing unprecedented things in the NHL. With 14 goals in his last 17 games, Matthews is likely on an unsustainable pace, just as Laine was earlier in the year. But even if his production slows down, he’s already in the discussion as an elite center in the NHL and should be for a long time.
The Calder Trophy run should be a heck of a battle down the stretch, with no clear winner emerging so far. We’re excited to watch.