The 24-year-old center joined Babe Pratt (1943-44) and Ted Kennedy (1954-55) to win the award. Matthews set a Maple Leafs record this season and won the Rocket Richard Trophy after leading the NHL with 60 goals.
Mats Sundin, their all-time leader in goals (420) and points (987), said he thinks Matthews could one day eclipse any of those records. Sundin, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012, congratulated Matthews on Tuesday in a personal message from Sweden via NHL.com for winning the Hart Trophy as well as the Ted Lindsay Awardawarded annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL, as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association.
“Auston, Mats Sundin here. I just want to congratulate you on a fantastic season,” Sundin said in a voice message that NHL.com forwarded to Matthews. “Having been with the Maple Leafs for the past few years has seen you grow as a player. Congratulations on winning the best award in hockey, I think, with the Hart Trophy. What a great achievement. Good luck in the future .” I hope to see you on the road. Congratulations.’
Matthews burst out with a big smile as he listened to Sundin’s message after the awards ceremony.
“That’s so cool,” he said. “Mats is a legend. To hear something like that is very special and humbling.”
Video: Jackie with Austin on winning the Hart Trophy
Matthews has 457 points (259 goals, 198 assists) in 407 games with the Maple Leafs since Toronto selected him as No. 1 in the 2016 NHL Draft and is entering the prime of his career.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” Sundin said.
The question is, will he go down as the greatest player in Maple Leafs history? That’s one of the topics being debated in a roundtable with Toronto legends Sundin, and fellow Hockey Hall of Fame members Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Borje Salming, as well as fan favorite Wendel Clark.
Sittler is second on their list in goals (389) and points; Salming is their leader in assists (620). Clark is fourth in power-play goals (79) behind Sundin (124), Sittler (120) and Rick Vaive (90), and third in penalty minutes (1,535). McDonald is one of the most popular Maple Leafs of all time, thanks to its lightning-quick release and signature curly mustache.
First, your reaction to Matthews winning the Hart Trophy?
babysit: “Anyone who has scored 60 goals certainly stands out. He had a great year. What’s really impressive is to see how he’s grown as a player. He’s just as tenacious in the defensive zone now as he is in the offensive zone. .”
McDonald’s: “He helped drag that team as far up the standings as possible. You couldn’t be more proud of where he’s come as a player. When you come to Auston and Connor McDavidthe two have now learned in a very short time being in the League what it takes and how to use their bodies more effectively to protect the puck, knock people off the puck and be that complete player they are now in have changed.”
Clark: “It’s fantastic. I mean, if you look at the history of the franchise, I mean it takes a team to win the Stanley Cup, but the Hart is the highest individual honor you can get as a player. Fantastic for the team and even bigger for the fans. There is a great generation of young players in the game right now and he is at the top of the list.”
Are you surprised that Matthews is only the third player with the Maple Leafs to win the Hart Trophy?
Sundin: “There have been a lot of great players who have worn the Maple Leafs jersey, and a lot of that depends on the kind of seasons other players have. For example, if you play in the Wayne Gretzky era (1979-99), you would have good could drop numbers and they still wouldn’t be good enough. Guys like Dave Keon, Darryl, Dougie Gilmour, they had great seasons for the Leafs, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.”
babysit: “Looking at the era I played in (1970-85), I thought Borje de Norris should have won at least once as the best defender in the League because that’s what I thought he was. Bobby Orr plays , well … I agree it’s about timing. The same goes for The Hart. Dave Keon is one of the greats of all time; he played during a time (1960-82) when Jean Beliveau and Bobby Hull were there too. Whatever happened in the past, Austin deserves this.”
Is Maple Leafs’ lack of playoff success destroying its legacy? He still hasn’t been on a team that has won a Stanley Cup Playoff series in his six seasons in the NHL.
McDonald’s: “Look, it shouldn’t all be put on his shoulders. That’s unfair. Hockey is a team sport. At the same time, you create legacies in the play-offs. Then people watch. That’s where legends are made.”
babysit: “The playoffs are a different animal. There’s less ice out there, control is tighter, goals are harder to make. Once they get over that hurdle, I think success will come.”
Clark: “The core is there. They have come close. There are no excuses. But if you look at the core of this team, there is a lot to love. So much talent. I think they are on the cusp of that breakthrough, I think there will be a different story.”
When all is said and done, does Auston stand a chance of becoming the greatest player in Maple Leafs history?
babysit: “He’s got the talent. But like I said, when all is said and done, playoffs push you to the next level. When that happens, sure.”
Sundin: “If he stays healthy and stays in Toronto, sure. You have to avoid injuries, you have to stay with the same team for a long time. But why wouldn’t you want to play in Toronto? You are treated so well and the fans are so supportive. There is no better place to play. And with his pace, his shot, his talent and now the way his game has been completed, there’s no stopping him.”