After a 40-goal, 69-point season that ranked first among NHL rookies in both categories and second in the entire NHL in goals, Auston Matthews has been awarded the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
“First off, congrats to Zach and Patrick on unbelievable years. You guys are great players, fun to watch, fun to compete against. My family, my parents — thank you guys for everything you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t be here without you guys. Thank you to the Toronto Maple Leafs — my teammates, coaches, management, staff — for all the help all year long. Last but not least, the city of Toronto. Leafs Nation — you guys are the best fans in the league. Thank you.”
– Auston Matthews acceptance speech
It is the first time a Toronto Maple Leaf has won the award since Britt Selby (1965-66) during the Original Six era. Matthews was just the second rookie to hit 40 goals since the year 2000, joined only by Alex Ovechkin (52 goals in 2005-06), and only the fourth to achieve the feat since 1990 (Teemu Selanne, Ovechkin and Eric Lindros are the other three).
Matthews staved off inordinately stiff competition in what was the Year of the Rookie in Toronto and the NHL at large: Patrik Laine scored 36 goals, Zach Werenski put up 47 points as a 19-year-old defenceman, and a pair of his own teammates both enjoyed Calder-calibre seasons with 61 points apiece in Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
To me, he’s the best rookie in the league bar none and it’s not even close in my opinion. We’re lucky to have him. We know that.
– Mike Babcock
His 40-goal season – plus an additional four in six playoff games — was beyond even the more bold prognostications for Matthews entering the year. In hindsight, maybe there wasn’t anything all that surprising about it. We spoke to Matthews’ former head coach Marc Crawford before the season and he insisted Matthews was every bit as good as Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic at the same age. Crawford also said that Matthews, as a freshly turned 18-year-old, was the best player in the Swiss men’s league after just 10-15 games. The freshly turned 19-year-old was among the top forwards for Team North America at the World Cup last September while competing against the best players in the world — before he played his first NHL preseason game.
Matthews’ potential is best described as “without a ceiling.” His 40-goal season is in the company of only a handful of others throughout NHL history – five, to be exact – for a 19-and-under rookie. It’s not hard to picture a few 50-goal, 90-plus point seasons from him at the peak of his career. He’ll likely be the captain of the team sooner or later, and the way he handles the media at the age of 19 – even-keeled with a quiet self-confidence, able to spot a gotcha question from a mile away, eager to embrace club history — suggests he’ll be a very good one for this market. His two-way game, which was already advanced for his age when he entered the league, improved at an accelerated pace over his rookie season. Not only is Matthews without a ceiling, he’s without any obvious comparables — a shoot-first, two-way center with size, power, speed, elite hands, and intangibles off the charts, he’s a totally unique breed of player.
In his first season, he led the Leafs to their first playoff appearance in four years, broke a bunch of team records, and claimed a piece of hardware no Leaf rookie has won in over 50 years, dating back to 1966. You don’t need any reminding about the significance of the following season. With an elite franchise center like Matthews leading the way, the Leafs are arguably in the best shape they’ve ever been to end that drought, too.
Matthews scored 164 first-place votes to Laine's three.
Calder Trophy Voting Results - 2017 NHL Awards
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