Barry Trotz saw first hand what the young American is capable of when his team faced the Maple Leafs in the playoffs this past April. This week the Capitals head coach has made a lofty comparison between the Maple Leafs star and an all-time great.
Trotz referred to Matthews as “a young Mario Lemieux” when speaking with reporters in Washington Tuesday.
The reigning Calder Trophy winner is off to a hot start to the 2017-18 campaign, registering five goals, including a pair of OT winners, and eight points through five games.
Lemieux entered the NHL in 1984-85 when teams scored at a much higher rate than they do today. The six-time Art Ross Trophy winner was one of 23 players to register 40 or more goals in his rookie year (he had 43 goals and 100 points in 73 game en route to a Calder Trophy of his own) whereas Matthews was one of only three players to do so last season—Sidney Crosby and Nikita Kucherov were the others.
Matthews has 45 goals and 77 points in his first 87 regular-season games in the NHL. Lemieux had 52 goals and 122 points in his first 87 appearances, but point production isn’t the only thing that comes to mind when comparing the two centres.
“If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz told reporters Monday. “He’s [tall], he skates great, he’s got unbelievable hands, and a hockey IQ and he’s strong on the puck.”