Well, the Auston Matthews era got off to a better start than anyone could have expected.
Of course, the game is still going as this is being published, but the Toronto Maple Leafs rookie has already scored four goals in his NHL debut versus the Ottawa Senators. Matthews is the first player in the NHL’s modern era to score four goals in his debut.
Matthews joins four others on a very short list of players who scored three or more goals in their first career NHL game. How will the 18-year-old stack up to the following four skaters when his career wraps up?
Alex Smart (Montreal Canadiens) – January 14, 1943 Vs. Blackhawks
Real Cloutier (Quebec Nordiques) – October 10, 1979 Vs. Atlanta Flames
Fabian Brunnstrom (Dallas Stars) – October 15, 2008 Vs. Nashville Predators
Derek Stepan (New York Rangers) – October 9, 2010 Vs. Buffalo Sabres
So how did the aforementioned players’ careers go after their unforgettable debuts?
Smart appeared in seven more games with the Canadiens in the 1942-43 season before spending the rest of his playing days in the Quebec Senior Hockey League. Cloutier, who spent five seasons playing professionally with Quebec in the WHA before his NHL debut, was an all-star in 1980 and totalled 284 points in 236 NHL games.
Brunnstrom potted 16 goals in 103 more NHL games following his hat-trick debut, while Stepan has developed into a solid two-way forward with the Rangers with 111 goals and 305 points in 434 contests thus far in his career.
According to the University of My Eyeballs, Matthews should stack up pretty well to his high-scoring debut brothers when it’s all said and done.
Stick-tap to Sportsnet’s stats department for the hat trick debut information.