Slow Start Lengthens Odds For Leafs’ Auston Matthews To Win Richard Trophy

Last season when the NHL schedule was trimmed because of the pandemic and travel restrictions, Toronto’s Auston Matthews was brilliant. The 23-year old center scored 41 goals to lead the league. His reward? The coveted Rocket Richard Trophy as the high goal-scorer in the league.

This season, Matthews is off to a sluggish start with five goals in 14 games, which brings into question his chances of repeating as winner of the trophy. Several sportsbooks have Matthews among the favorites to be the top goal-scorer again, but the odds are shifting a few weeks into the season:

Auston Matthews Rocket Richard Trophy Betting Odds

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Nagging Injuries May Be Concern

Even when Matthews was racking up goals at a feverish pace last season, his coach was careful to explain that it wasn’t easy.

“We all know he’s been dealing at different times with injury situations that have directly impacted his ability to shoot and handle the puck,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “So that makes you wonder what could have happened had [he] been healthy all the way through.”

In the offseason, Matthews underwent wrist surgery, and his recovery kept him from playing in the first three games of the 2021-22 season.

Given his record, there’s reason to believe that once Matthews is at full strength, he can make a push for a second Rocket Richard Trophy. The last player to repeat as goal-scoring champion was Alexander Ovechkin, who won it three times in a row from 2018 to 2020.

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Former No. 1 Pick Hopes To Lead Leafs To Stanley Cup

Matthews was selected with the No. 1 pick by Toronto in the 2016 NHL Draft. Entering the 2021-22 season, he’s never scored fewer than 34 goals in any of his five seasons in the league. Since his arrival, the California native has been looked upon as a savior for a franchise seeking its first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1967. That’s what happens when you score four goals in your NHL debut.

Toronto was the No. 1 seed after winning the North Division in the 2020-21 season, but Matthews and the Leafs were knocked off in the playoffs by rival Montreal. It was the fourth time in five years that Toronto has been eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That sting has been felt by Matthews each time.

A run to the Stanley Cup Finals would be embraced by the crazed hockey fans in Toronto and the rest of Ontario and could also wash away an embarrassing stain on a country that prides itself on its skills in ice hockey. A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993. Only two Canadian-based teams have even advanced to the Cup Finals since 2011.

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About the Rocket Richard Trophy

The Rocket Richard Trophy is named in honor of Montreal Canadiens right winger Maurice “Rocket” Richard, a Hockey Hall of Famer with a flair for scoring and passing the puck. His achievements are legendary:

  • Richard was the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in one season (1944-45 in a 50-game schedule)
  • Won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP in 1947.
  • Played in 13 NHL All-Star Games.
  • Named to 14 postseason NHL All-Star Teams, including eight times on the First Team.
  • Richard retired in 1960 as the league’s all-time leader in goals with 544, the first player to reach 500 goals.
  • Named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in history in 2017.

The first Rocket Richard Award was by Teemu Selanne for the 1998-99 season. Alexander Ovechkin has won the award nine times, the most of any player. Matthews is the only Toronto player to have won the honor.

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is a contributor to Toronto Sports Media and has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars.