Auston Matthews set a Toronto Maple Leafs record when he scored his 55th goal of the season against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Thursday.
The 24-year-old forward scored at 18:58 of the second period of a 4-3 overtime win to pass Rick Vaive, who scored 54 for Toronto in 1981-82. Matthews then scored No. 56 at 2:10 of overtime
“The sky’s the limit for this kid,” Vaive told NHL.com on Monday. “Congratulations to him. Records are made to be broken, and I’m proud that mine was broken by such a generational player. He’s just getting started too.
“He just seems to be getting better and better at both ends of the ice. I look forward to shaking his hand and congratulating him in person.”
Vaive said he hopes to meet with Matthews on Saturday. He’ll be in attendance when the Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens.
“The way he’s going, this is only the first of his 50-plus goal seasons,” Vaive said.
Matthews is the third United States-born player to score 55 goals in a season, joining Jimmy Carson, who scored 55 for the Los Angeles Kings in 1987-88, and Kevin Stevens, who scored 55 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992-93.
Matthews, who leads the NHL in goals this season, will try to become the first to score 60 since Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. Toronto has 11 regular-season games remaining.
“When you have that arsenal of weapons he has, and the way shoots, I wouldn’t be surprised if some time in his career he gets 70,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Monday.
Matthews’ record-setting goal came one week after he became the fourth Maple Leafs player to score 50 in a 7-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on March 31. He joined Vaive, Gary Leeman (1989-90) and Dave Andreychuk (1993-94).
Mats Sundin, the Maple Leafs’ all-time leader in goals (420) and points (987) and their captain from 1997-2009, said he thinks the best may be yet to come for Matthews.
“Congrats to Auston on such a great accomplishment,” Sundin said last week. “If he stays in Toronto he might hold all the major scoring records, including mine.”
Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said he’s been impressed with how Matthews has kept his composure while gaining more attention with each goal.
“I think it’s outstanding,” Keefe said. “First of all, getting the 50 goals, that in itself is a milestone for him, and then no hesitation he’s on to the next thing, which is the next game and the next challenge.
“I think his focus remains on leading this team and that’s the best part about him, he just stays humble and continues to work. He knows he’s a great player and knows that goals are going to come. It’s just part of what he does for our club. He’s leading our team in lots of different ways, and that’s what I’m most excited about.”