The NHL is in a golden age when it comes to young, exceptionally talented prospects proving their worth immediately. And no club has benefited from that shift as greatly as the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Of the top 15 rookie scorers in the NHL this season, six wear Leafs colours. Wind that down to just the top four, and only one isn’t a member of the blue and white.
Though the Leafs’ youthful dominance has been the story of the season, it looks like Toronto’s young guns are on the verge of kicking it up a notch, set to establish themselves as the club’s best-ever rookie class.
The Leafs' 206 rookie points through 53 games have been scored by committee, though the heavy lifting has undoubtedly been done by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who boast 44 and 46 points, respectively.
William Nylander is just a step behind with 36 to his name, while Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and Zach Hyman all have at least 23 points in the bag. Nikita Soshnikov and Frederik Gauthier round out the group with a combined 10 points.
There’s no question the standout rookies will soon top the franchise benchmark. The Leafs have just under 30 games remaining on the season, with Matthews and Marner both on pace to rack up roughly 25 points apiece over that span.
But the total points mark likely isn’t the only franchise record the first-year phenoms will be claiming in 2016-17.
Peter Ihnacak's rookie record-setting mark of 66 points – posted during that 207-point, 1982-83 season – is in danger, with both Marner and Matthews on pace to outscore him at some point over the next couple months.
They’re coming for Wendel too.
Leafs great Wendel Clark set the franchise record for rookie goals with 34 back in 1985-86. Matthews already has 25 tallies in the bag, and should be flirting with the 40-goal plateau by this season’s end if he continues on his current trajectory.
Suffice to say, Toronto’s rebuild isn’t just going swimmingly – the Leafs have in fact put together arguably the best rookie class in team history. Bad news for their former rookie record-holders, but fantastic news for the club’s promising future.
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