When the Maple Leafs drafted Auston Matthews first overall at June’s entry draft it was the beginning of what many fans in Toronto hoped would be the beginning of a new era. While it seemed unfair to put the usual pressure of the market on a 19-year-old, it was undoubtedly there by virtue of expectation.
On Wednesday night’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators, expectation became a reality. Matthews became the first player in league history to score four goals in his NHL debut, the first three coming on his first three shots. He’s just the fifth player in league history to net a hat trick in his debut, the last being Derek Stepan for the Rangers in 2010.
To put this in perspective: Matthews’ has more four-goal games than Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Steven Stamkos and John Tavares, along with many, many others.
The showing of epic proportions was spoiled by a Kyle Turris overtime goal, but appears to be the start of an immensely exciting and inspiring era for the win-starved Maple Leaf organization. While it’s a one-game sample size, Matthews looks to be every bit the star player he’s been hyped to be–showing some of this prior with team North America at the World Cup of Hockey last month.
Matthews finished the night with 17:35 in ice time to lead all Toronto forwards and recorded 6 shots on goal, tied for most in the game alongside his 19-year-old teammate, Micth Marner.
The Leafs will return home to the Air Canada Centre for Saturday’s meeting with the Boston Bruins, the home opener which will serve as a part-celebration for the 100th anniversary of the team and league. Still, there may be no louder ovation than when number 34 touches the puck.
Other firsts on the night:
Ryan Hartman, Chicago: first NHL goal in his 9th NHL game.
Tyler Motte, Chicago: first NHL assist in his 1st NHL game.
Pat Maroon, Edmonton: first goal scored at the Oilers new home, the Rogers Place.
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton: first NHL goal in his first NHL game (on his first shot on goal–currently has a 100% shooting percentage).
From one prodigy to another set of prodigies:
Connor McDavid scored two goals in the Oilers 7-4 win over Calgary in their first game at their new home arena. The youngest captain in NHL history had 6 shots on goal and his 23:27 TOI trailed only Oscar Klefbom (24:47). The first overall pick from a year ago is off to a great start to the season after a broken collarbone forced him to miss 37 games last season. He finished his rookie campaign with 48 points in 45 games.
Meanwhile the second overall pick from the same draft, Jack Eichel, suffered an ankle injury at practice in Buffalo on Wednesday. The team later announced the injury was classified as a ‘high ankle sprain,’ with the timetable remaining unknown. The early speculation is 4-6 weeks, minimum. Concerning and devastating for the Sabres, who kick off their season against the Carey Price-less (flu) Canadiens on Thursday in Buffalo.
Price really does have the flu, according to the team. He will not start or travel with the team. Whenever Price is missing, it’s concerning. But the flu should have him ready to play by Saturday in Ottawa.