Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs led the NHL with 41 goals to win the Rocket Richard Trophy.
The 23-year-old center, who played 52 games, scored eight more goals than Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, who was second. Matthews became the first Maple Leafs player in 75 years, and the first United States-born player in 24 years, to lead the NHL in goals.
“It means a lot,” Matthews said this month after scoring his 40th goal. “I play with some really special players and obviously we’ve had a really good season so far, so I just feel really, really good. It’s a team sport so there’s a lot that goes into it.”
Maple Leafs forward Gaye Stewart scored 37 goals to lead the NHL in 1945-46. The other United States-born player to do so was Keith Tkachuk, who scored 52 for the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996-97.
Matthews, who scored his 40th goal in his 49th game, was the first NHL player to score 40 goals in fewer than 50 games since the 1999-00 season, when Pavel Bure scored his 40th in his 48th game for the Florida Panthers.
“It’s incredible,” Toronto forward William Nylander said. “You just know how special of a goal-scorer he was from the moment he came into the League with that four-goal first game (in his NHL debut). It’s incredible to see him and watch him every night do what he does out there. It’s incredible.”
Matthews missed four games this season with a wrist injury.
“He’s had a tremendous season yet not a smooth season,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday. “We all know he’s been dealing at different times with injury situations that have directly impacted his ability to shoot and handle the puck, and so that makes you wonder what could have happened had [he] been healthy all the way through.”
Selected with the No. 1 pick by Toronto in the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews has scored 199 goals in 334 regular-season games and hasn’t scored fewer than 34 in any of his five seasons. He scored an NHL career-high 47 last season to finish third, one behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins.
“It’s definitely not easier but I think you just gain experience,” Matthews said. “… Just going into it, getting more confidence. Like I said, I play with some really good players and I’ve been fortunate to have really good teams in my five years here. Every year just try to get better and better and push for more.”
Since entering the NHL, Matthews is second in goals, six behind Ovechkin (205), who has played 24 more games.
“[Matthews] was scoring at such a high rate as a young player, even before this season, but he’s taken that to another level,” Keefe said. “… He can score multiple ways. I think that’s obviously the biggest reason why you see him separating himself from others in the League. There are other really great scorers that don’t have as many dimensions to their game, and that’s a credit to Austin and the positions he puts himself in and, of course, the contributions he gets from his teammates to help with that.”
The Maple Leafs, who are the No. 1 seed in the seven-team Scotia North Division, play the No. 3 seed Montreal Canadiens in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round.
“As far as putting the puck in the net, it has been special for him and he has had a great season,” Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With that being said, that’s done with and it’s a fresh start and we hope he continues.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report