When asking the question “can Auston Matthews score 50 goals in 50 games” there are a couple of important things to consider.
What’s working for him and what’s working against him? It seems unlikely that any player could accomplish the feat in today’s game, but Matthews has 18 goals in his first 19 games of the season and it feels like he’s about to score almost every time he shoots the puck.
Before drilling down on this there is an important distinction that needs to be made in that the NHL officially recognizes “50 in 50” as a player who scores that amount in his team’s first 50 games. Matthews has missed a game so he would actually need to score 50 in his first 49 games of the season to join the exclusive club, assuming he plays in each of Toronto’s next 30 games.
So, what does Matthews have working in his favour?
For starters, goals haven’t been hard to come by in general in the North Division, which is the highest-scoring division in hockey. The Maple Leafs’ power play is tied for first in the NHL at 33.3 per cent despite going 0-for-7 in Monday’s loss to Calgary. Mitch Marner, one of the top playmakers in the game, feeds him pucks at both even-strength and on the man advantage, while Matthews has one of the most lethal shots in the league.
The evolution of Matthews’ one-timer has elevated him from elite to perhaps the best goal scorer in the game today. Matthews scored just seven, one-timer goals in his first three NHL seasons — a total of 212 games.
He’s scored 21 since the start of last season.
On the other hand, history shows us that Matthews is climbing a very steep hill in his quest to score 50 goals in his first 50 games. The last player to accomplish the feat was Cam Neely in 1993-94. Neely isn’t an official “50 in 50” guy because he didn’t score 50 in his team’s first 50 games — he only played 49 games total that season, but he did score 50 goals.