When the Toronto Maple Leafs walked out of the tunnel and skated onto the ice Wednesday evening to face the Ottawa Senators, nobody expected the spectacle that would unfold before them within the next couple of hours. Auston Matthews, the newest center on Toronto’s squad and also the No.1 overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft, would do nothing but exceed expectations. Although the game would end with a 5-4 loss for the Maple Leafs, fans and teammates would be sure to recognize that the rookie could handle professional competition.
For any hockey player, a hat trick (scoring three goals) is an impressive feat, but on his debut, Matthews would one-up even that grand accomplishment. Just 8:21 into the first period, slipped the puck in on his very first shot on a pass from Zach Hyman during a frenzy around the Ottawa net. Just minutes later, he stole the puck from the Senators’ Erik Karlsson and beat goalie Craig Anderson with a swift forehand. It was proving to be a great debut for the rookie already, just one-third of the way into the contest.
After less than two minutes into the second period, Matthews slapped a one-timer into the goal from inside the opposition’s right circle, giving Toronto a 3-2 lead. Needless to say, the fans began showering the ice with hats, as is tradition when a player scores three goals in a game, if you aren’t very familiar with the sport. This marked Matthews as the fifth player in the history of the National Hockey League to complete the hat trick in their debut. But he wasn’t quite done yet. With just three seconds left in the second period, Matthews lifted the puck past the Ottawa goalie following blowing by a defender.
In the third period, Ottawa regained the lead and maintained it until the end of regulation, handing Toronto a 5-4 loss, all of whose goals came from the rookie Auston Matthews. The 19 year-old has surely proven himself to the entire hockey world, and will be at the forefront of attention for awhile, especially if he continues to put up impressive numbers. Although it’s doubtful he’ll have many, if any games with as many goals as in his debut, will he keep playing very well now that the spotlight is on him more so than ever?