Where does Auston Matthews' rookie season rank among the greatest of all time?
Craig Custance: After he passed Neal Broten for most goals by an American rookie, I think it's fair to argue he's turned in the best American rookie season in NHL history. Somehow he scored four goals in his NHL debut and then managed not to let the high expectations that followed bowl him over. I've constantly been impressed with how he's handled every new thing thrown at him in the most challenging market in the league. We just got our PHWA awards ballots on Thursday and I'm thankful that he's made at least one of the awards pretty easy to choose.
Pierre LeBrun: Well, he's put the together the best rookie season in the 100-year history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, his goals (39) and points (67) breaking records for first-year players for the Original Six team. I mean, that's pretty heady company. And to do it in an era when scoring is not what it was in the 1970s, '80s and early '90s just underlines how special it really is. To me, though, and I've had the chance to be around him a bit this season since I'm based in Toronto, it's the maturity with which he's handled it all. He's had some ups and downs but played every game with the same approach and work ethic, regardless. And his development on the defensive side of the puck is what's also been striking, and the trust that's come with that from demanding head coach Mike Babcock. A rookie season for the ages.
Scott Burnside: I'll put Matthews' season at the top of rookie accomplishments since the 2004-05 lockout, and that includes Steve Mason's 10-shutout performance in 2009, which was pretty darned impressive, as was Alex Ovechkin's 52-goal, 106-point effort in 2006 (although the Washington Capitals didn't make the playoffs, so he gets docked style points). But consider that Matthews is a center and has been the catalyst for a very young Leafs team on the verge of a playoff berth, well ahead of schedule, and you have to consider his the best rookie performance of his generation. All time? No one touches Teemu Selanne's 132-point, 76-goal rookie campaign in 1992-93. Or Peter Stastny's 109-point effort in 1980-81 in Quebec. Or Tony Esposito's 15 shutouts in 1969-70. Those are different eras with a different game, but the fact those first-year feats will likely never be matched doesn't diminish Matthews' considerable accomplishments.
Joe McDonald: There's no denying Matthews' spectacular rookie season. It's great to see a 19-year-old forward from Arizona having a massive impact for a Canadian-based team with so much history. He's one goal shy of reaching 40 and would become the fourth rookie in history to reach that seasonal mark before his 20th birthday. I'm already wondering how he's going to perform during his sophomore season. He's been impressive, no doubt, but it's tough to argue with Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby's rookie season. At 18, No. 87 posted 39 goals and 63 assists for 102 points in 81 games. That performance was in a class of its own.
Rob Vollman: I predicted an upside of 60 points, and Matthews' success certainly surprised statisticians like me. From a strictly goal-scoring perspective, I'd place his rookie season behind only Ovechkin's in the post-Selanne era. If you take his entire game into account and/or include more than 25 years of hockey history, then it doesn't stand out quite as much. But unless you're an older hockey fan like me, you have probably only seen a first-year goal-scoring impact like this once before, and it proved to be the starter pistol of an outstanding career.