Toronto Maple Leafs fans could not have asked for more from rookie sensation Auston Matthews in the team’s season opener. The #1 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Matthews was a lock to make the roster and came in with high expectations. In less than two periods, those expectations were shattered. Auston Matthews scored two in the first period, added another couple tallies in the second, and as of this writing he’s still going. His second goal was a single-handed masterpiece, while his first and last came from fellow youngster and promising line mate William Nylander. Its only day one, but Matthews is well on his way to being the biggest name in Toronto hockey in a long time.
Before Matthews record-breaking performance, only four players had ever scored a hat trick in their NHL debut. Montreal’s Alex Smart was the first to do it in 1943, followed by the Quebec Nordiques’ Real Cloutier in 1979. In more recent memory, “flash in the pan” Fabian Brunnstrom accomplished the feat for the Stars in 2008, and current Rangers star Derek Stepan had a hat trick in his debut in 2010, kick-starting a strong NHL career. However, Matthews is the first to score four, and many Toronto fans will tell you that Stepan is simply a floor for what they believe Matthews can be.
Never before has a Calder race has such a definitive leader after the first day of the season as it has in 2016-17. While pucks have just dropped on a new NHL season, Matthews is already the biggest name in the league thus far. While his numbers will certainly return to normal, the hype alone coming out of Toronto may keep in the lead for Rookie of the Year from Game One to Game Eighty-Two.