Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Aston Mathews reached the 50-goal milestone for the first time in his career on Thursday night when he returned home in an empty-net in an entertaining win against the Winnipeg Jets, becoming the fourth player in franchise history. Achievement
Matthews did this almost two years ago when, in 70 games in his 2019-20 campaign, he scored 47 goals and was behind Alex Ovechkin and David Pasternak for the league lead. However, that’s when the NHL shut down for the rest of the regular season because COVID-19 was initially called a global epidemic.
Star Center won his first NHL goal title, scoring 41 in just 52 games in the Canadian division the following year, yet he never managed to score 50 for the 2020-21 short schedule.
The two-time Lady Buying finalist is performing in front of the Hart Trophy this season, possibly with a second goal in a row around the corner. He is currently surpassing Euler’s Leon Drysitel in the Morris “Rocket” Richard Trophy race.
Matthews also has his eye on the Toronto franchise record of 54 goals scored by Rick Viv 40 years ago.
Perhaps more significant than the significance of the franchise is that Matthews became the first player in the United States to score at least 50 in almost a quarter of a century.
Matthews did not even celebrate his first birthday when John Lecler scored 51 against the Flyers in the 1997-98 season, the last time an American scored a half-century.
In terms of talent, Matthews is one of Hockey’s most talented American players and has undoubtedly become the NHL’s best American goal scorer since Brett Hall.
Still only 24, Matthews is the 11th American in NHL history to record a 50-goal season. This has happened a total of 20 times before this season; Six Americans have done it more than once. Hull, who was born in Canada but represented the United States internationally, holds the American record, including five 50-goal seasons.
Matthews, born in California and raised in Arizona, is the first American to reach 50 in the pay-cap era. Brian Jionter’s 48-goal season, released from a lockout in 2005-06, was the previous highest for an American in the cap era.
Mathews was one of only 16 players in NHL history to score 40 or more as a rookie, which helped him win the Calder Trophy five years ago and his goal-per-game rate has improved significantly since that 2016-17 season.
Mathews averaged 0.56 goals in his first four years in the NHL, but thanks to his 91 goals in 114 games since the start of last season, his career average has been 0.63 goals per game.
When you look at the numbers per-game, you realize that Matthews is starting to enter his own class – even compared to some of the greatest American goal scorers in years past.
Highest goal-per-game rate among retired American skaters
Brett Hull 0.56 (Games: 1,269 | Goal: 741) **
Pat LaFontaine 0.54 (Games: 865 | Goal: 468) **
Joe Mullen 0.47 (Games: 1,062 | Goal: 561) **
Keith Takachuk 0.45 (Games: 1,201 | Goal: 538)
Jimmy Carson 0.44 (Games: 626 | Goal: 275)
John Lecler 0.42 (Games: 967 | Goal: 406)
Jeremy Roenick 0.38 (Games: 1,363 | Goal: 513)
Kevin Stevens 0.38 (Games: 874 | Goal: 329)
Mike Modano 0.37 (Games: 1,499 | Goal: 561) **
** HHOF member
Mathews is on track to score 62 goals this season, assuming he is fit for Toronto’s remaining 15 games.
Hull is the only American to have scored more than 60 goals in a single season. He did it three times in a row in the early 1990’s.
Hale was 23 years old when he entered the league on a full-time basis, though, and at the age of 25, 26 and 27 he won his three-goal title, so Matthews started a head start for Hale on the subject.
Matthews has scored 249 goals in his first 396 regular-season NHL appearances. Hull scored 309 in his first 396 games, averaging 0.78 goals per game.
Remember, the NHL team averaged more than 3.5 goals per game in that era. Hall’s production eventually shut down and he scored 0.49 goals per game from 1992-93 until his retirement in 2005.
Will Mathews be able to maintain his current scoring rate for the rest of his contract and beyond, or the 0.80 goal-per-game pace he has maintained over the past two years?
One thing for sure is that Matthews clearly reigns supreme among his contemporaries.
He has been the first American to score a goal in every game in his first five seasons since he was first selected overall by Maple Leafs in 2016. He is in the process of doing this for the sixth time in a row
The highest goal-per-game average among active American skaters
Austin Mathews 0.63 (Games: 396 | Goal: 249)
Kyle Connor 0.46 (Games: 372 | Goal: 172)
Alex Debrinkat 0.44 (Games: 354 | Goal: 157)
Jason Robertson 0.43 (Games: 112 | Goal: 48)
Jake Guentzel 0.42 (Games: 362 | Goal: 153)
Josh Norris 0.39 (Games: 109 | Goal: 43)
Patrick Kane 0.39 (Games: 1,093 | Goal: 425)
Max Passivity 0.38 (Games: 840 | Goal: 319)
Brock Boeser 0.37 (Games: 316 | Goal: 117)
Jack Aichel 0.37 (Games: 396 | Goal: 146)
As you can see, two of these players have not even scored 50 career goals, so even in cases where the average fluctuates more easily due to the smaller sample size, Mathews is still well ahead of the pack.
Despite the arrival of American talent in the league, there were only 13 instances before this season before an American registered 40 or more goals in the pay-cap era, excluding Matthews’ time. Subsequently, every player on that list, except Matthews, needed at least 80 games to get there – Matthews took 49 games to score his 40th last season and 53 games this season.
Scoring has increased throughout the league this year, with teams averaging 3.11 goals per game – the highest since 2005-06 – and associates Chris Kraider and Kyle Connor joined Matthews in a 40-goal club in March. Both of them can touch 50 for the first time in their respective careers.
At No. 14 in terms of total goals scored by an American during his four-goal NHL debut in 2016. He is proud of his 75-goal cushion over Patrick Kane despite playing 39 less games.
Most regular-season goals for Americans since 2016-17
1. Austin Mathews 249
2. Patrick Kane 174
3. Kyle Connor 172
4. Chris Cradder 162
5. Anders Lee 159
6. Alex Debrinkat 157
7. Jake Gwenzel 153
8. Joe Pavelsky 152
9. Cam Atkinson 150
10. Johnny Gaudrew 145
Matthews also recently surpassed Ovechkin to claim the top spot among all players regardless of nationality.
Most regular-season NHL goals since 2016-17
1. Austin Mathews 249
2. Alex Ovechkin 247
3. Leon Draisitl 227
4. Connor McDavid 216
5. David Pasternak 213
6. Brad Marchand 196
7. Jake Gwenzel 153
8. Sebastian Aho 176
9. Patrick Lane 175
10. Why Patrick 174
Mathews has scored 188 equal-scoring goals among all players since entering the league, and his 42 game-winners are second only to McDavid’s 45 in that extended period.
AM34’s impressive 0.80 goal-per-game rate since the start of last season will keep him on track for nearly 65 goals throughout the 82-game season. He played 82 games as a Rocky but has not qualified for more than 70 games in a single season since then.
Only two players have a 70-goal season in the cap era: Ovechkin’s 65 in 2006-07 and Steven Stamcos’ 70 in 2011-12.
Mathews’ scoring rate has increased over the last two seasons, with Ovechkin’s career goal per game averaging 0.61 – at least for now.
Game-per-top goal rate in the cap era
1. Austin Mathews 0.63 (Games: 396 | Goal: 249)
2. Alex Ovechkin 0.61 (Games: 1,263 | Goal: 772)
3. Steven Stamcos 0.52 (Games: 906 | Goal: 469)
4. Connor McDavid 0.49 (Games: 474 | Goal: 232)
5. Ilya Kovalchuk 0.48 (Games: 699 | Goal: 335)
6. David Pasternak 0.47 (Games: 505 | Goal: 238)
7. Sydney Crosby 0.47 (Games: 1,096 | Goal: 511)
8. Kyle Connor 0.46 (Games: 372 | Goal: 172)
9. Leon Draisaitl 0.45 (Games: 546 | Goal: 248)
10. Evgeny Malkin 0.45 (Games: 972 | Goal: 441)
Matthews and Ovechkin are in rare company with that career average. In the modern era of hockey, only four players – Mike Bosi, Mario Lemieux, Pavel Burrey and Wayne Gretzky – have scored an average of 0.60 goals or at least 200 goals throughout their careers.
That The elite Institutions.
In fact, only seven players in NHL history have scored more goals than Matthews in their first 396 regular-season games. Ovechkin was the only active player to score more goals in that amount of time to start his career.
Most goals in the first 396 NHL games
1. Wayne Gretzky 357
2. Mario Lemieux 318
3. Mike Bosi 315
4. Brett Hall 309
5. Alex Ovechkin 269
6. Issued Curie 260
7. Timu Ceylon 257
8. Austin Mathews 249
Ovechkin rekindled the controversy over whether the Russian winger was the all-time leading goalscorer of all time and whether he would eventually break The Great One’s record when he jumped to the third place in the NHL’s all-time goal list.
We’ve already established Matthews Hall as the greatest American scorer since, but can Matthews work his way into the big conversation?
AM34’s goal-per-game rate
2021-22: 0.81 (via 62 GP)
Imagine if he could keep up his pace for the last two years, he should have scored 300 goals in the second half of next season and reached 500 goals before his 28th birthday.
Even if he averages 0.63 goals per game from now on, he will be able to score 300 goals before the end of 2022-23 and track 500 goals before playing his 800th career game.
He is only in his sixth season and longevity plays a role in any kind of GOAT controversy. However, statistically speaking, he deserves a mention, especially considering that he is improving year after year and entering the early part of his career.