Matthews receives praise from Maple Leafs alumni after Hart Trophy win

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 feels Matthews could one day eclipse each of those records. Sundin, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012, offered his congratulations to Matthews in a personal message from Sweden via NHL.com on Tuesday for winning the Hart Trophy and also the Ted Lindsay Awardgiven 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 for a fantastic season,” Sundin said in a voice message that NHL.com relayed to Matthews. “Being with the Maple Leafs for the past few years, I’ve been watching you play growing as a player. Congratulations on winning the best prize I think in hockey with the Hart Trophy. What a great achievement. Good luck in the future. Hope to see you down the road. Congratulations. “

Matthews broke into a huge smile when he listened to Sundin’s message after the awards presentation.

“That’s so cool,” he said. “Mats is a legend. To hear something like that is very special and humbling.”

Video: Jackie with Auston on winning the Hart Trophy

Matthews has 457 points (259 goals, 198 assists) in 407 games with the Maple Leafs since Toronto selected him No. 1 in the 2016 NHL Draft and is entering the prime of his career.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Sundin said.

Question is, will he go down as the greatest player in Maple Leafs history? That’s one of the issues debated in a roundtable of 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’s is one of the most popular Maple Leafs of all-time, thanks to his lightning-quick release and his signature curly mustache.

First off, your reaction to Matthews winning the Hart Trophy?

Sittler: “Anybody who scored 60 goals obviously stands out for sure. He had an amazing year. What’s been really impressive is to see the way he’s grown as a player. He’s as tenacious now in the defensive zone as he is in the offensive one.”

McDonald’s: “He helped drag that team as far up the standings as he possibly could. You couldn’t be prouder of where he’s come as a player. When you look at Auston and Connor McDavidthe two of them have learned now in a very short time of being in the League, what it is going to take and how to use their bodies more effectively to shield the puck, to knock people off the puck, and be that complete player that they’ve now turned into. “

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 greater for the fans. There’s a great generation of young players in the game right now, and he’s right there at the top of the list. “

Are you surprised that Matthews is just the third player with the Maple Leafs to win the Hart Trophy?

Sundin: “There have been a lot of great players that have worn the Maple Leafs jersey, and a lot of it depends on the type of seasons other players are having. If you’re playing in the Wayne Gretzky era (1979-99), for example , you could put up good numbers and they still wouldn’t be good enough. Guys like Dave Keon, Darryl, Dougie Gilmour, they had some amazing seasons for the Leafs, and that shouldn’t be forgotten. “

Sittler: “I look at the era I played in (1970-85), I thought Borje should have won the Norris as the League’s best defenseman at least once because that’s what I thought he was. But when you play at the same time as Bobby Orr , well… I agree it’s about timing. Same with the Hart. Dave Keon is one of the all-time greats; he played at a time (1960-82) when Jean Beliveau and Bobby Hull were there too. Whatever happened in the past , Auston deserves this. “

Does the lack of Maple Leafs playoff success dent his 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 be put all on his shoulders. That’s unfair. Hockey’s a team sport. At the same time, you create legacies in the playoffs. That’s when people are watching. That’s where legends are made.”

Sittler: “The playoffs are a different animal. There’s less ice out there, the checking is tighter, goals are harder to come by. Once they get over that hurdle, I think success will come.”

Clark: “The nucleus is there. They’ve come close. There’s no excuses. But when you look at the core of this team, there’s a lot to like. So much talent. I think they’re on the cusp. And once they make it. that breakthrough, I think there’ll be a different narrative. “

When all is said and done, does Auston have the chance to be the greatest player in Maple Leafs history?

Sittler: “He has the talent. But like I said, when all is said and done, playoffs push you to the next level. If that happens, for sure.”

Sundin: “If he stays healthy and stays in Toronto, for sure. You have to avoid injuries, you have to be 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 of you. There is no better place to play. And with his speed, his shot, his talent and now the way his game has rounded out, there is no stopping him. “

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