Leafs’ Fehr compares Auston Matthews to Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin

A Calder Trophy-winning rookie campaign earned Auston Matthews his fair share of lofty comparisons last season, as the young Toronto Maple Leafs pivot plowed through the NHL en route to a dominant 40-goal, 69-point debut. But there’s one observer among the masses whose assessment of Matthews carries a bit more weight than the rest.

“I have played with Sid (Sidney Crosby), I have played with Ovie (Alex Ovechkin),” Leafs centre Eric Fehr said to the Toronto Sun on Thursday. “And (Matthews) is right up there. The way (he) can just control the play … you think he is trapped, but he finds a way out every time.”

Fehr has plenty of experience watching premier offensive dynamos Crosby and Ovechkin go to work, having suited up alongside the latter during a near-decade tenure in Washington before winning the Stanley Cup alongside Crosby in 2016. Now looking to crack the Leafs lineup, Fehr has been granted a front-row seat to one of the game’s next superstars’ ascensions.

“He is thinking a couple of steps ahead,” Fehr said of Matthews’ elite vision. “It looks like he is not going fast, but he is blowing by guys. His control of the puck is crazy. He is next level, for sure.”

Matthews’ 40 goals were second in the NHL last season, level with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and just four shy of Crosby’s Rocket Richard Trophy-winning sum. The Leafs phenom then went toe-to-toe with Ovechkin during the first round of the 2017 playoffs, posting four goals and five points as Toronto pushed the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals to six games.

That breakout campaign for the club, and for Matthews in particular, has the rest of the NHL paying close attention to Toronto’s young guns, says Fehr.

“I think the league has taken notice of this young, speedy team that is relentless.”

The 32-year-old is working hard to remain a part of that up-and-coming squad, a tough go given Toronto’s current reliance on young talent. Fehr earned just one game in a Leafs uniform last season after being traded to Toronto in March.