There was a lot of excitement in Leafs Nation heading into the 2016-17 NHL season, with a crop of top prospects that included 1st overall pick Auston Matthews, Memorial Cup MVP Mitch Marner, and Swedish wunderkind William Nylander. It took just one game for that excitement to pay off when Matthews put in an incredible four goal performance, setting an NHL record as the only player to score four times in their NHL debut. Matthews’ performance is even more impressive when you realise that only one player (Sam Bennett) had a 4-goal game last year, and only 13 players have matched that total in the past five seasons.
Scoring four goals in one game is quite rare; doing it in your first NHL game even moreso. But how long does it normally take for a star to score their first four career goals? For that matter, how long does it take someone who isn’t as skilled as most first overall picks? Let’s delve into some history and find out.
Eric Lindros is the first overall pick every NHL GM wishes they could make. Big, strong, and immensely skilled, Lindros possessed a combination of traits that are nearly unmatched in NHL history. And like Matthews, he was pretty quick to notch four goals. He scored in his NHL debut, added another goal in his 2nd game, and scored another two in his 4th appearance. It only took Lindros a week to reach the four goal mark. Pretty impressive.
Jaromir Jagr entered the NHL 26 years ago, playing his first game for the Penguins when Auston Matthews was -7 years old. Somehow Jagr’s still going. He wasn’t nearly as quick as Lindros to reach four goals, taking 12 games to reach that mark. He’s since played 17,000 more NHL games and probably has at least 3,000-4,000 left.
Mats Sundin entered the league around the same time as Lindros and Jagr. He’s the kind of player Leafs fans hope Matthews can be: a dominant two-way force who was the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs for over a decade. Sundin took 10 games to reach the four goal mark. More impressively, he needed just 24 games to eliminate the Ottawa Senators from the playoffs four times between 2000 and 2004.
Colton Orr wasn’t quite as quick to score his fourth career goal. He managed the feat in his 194th NHL game, a little bit slower than the players listed above. It only took him 15 games to get his fourth fighting major.
Martin Marincin is currently playing on the Leafs top pair with offensive dynamo Morgan Rielly. Marincin has struggled to score goals in his NHL career. He’s currently sitting on two goals in 152 games. So Matthews already has twice as many goals as Marincin in 1.3% as many games.
That got me wondering who has played the most career games in the NHL without ever scoring four goals.
Brad Brown played 330 NHL games between 1996-97 and 2003-04. He retired with two goals scored.
Nathan Beaulieu is the leader in career games played with fewer than four goals among active players, having scored three goals in 153 games. Marincin is so close to snatching the record away from him!
Ron Hextall is the NHL goalie who has the most career goals scored, with two. However, one of those was in a playoff game, and that doesn’t really count, so Hextall really only has one goal. He played 608 NHL games, so it’s not like he didn’t have time to score a few more. We’re going to have to chalk this one up to laziness.
“MR. PERFECT” CURT HENNIG
Mr. Perfect claimed to be good at everything, but he never scored an NHL goal. What’s up with that?
Marie Curie is tied for the greatest number of Nobel Prizes won by a single person, with two. She’s the only human to ever win in multiple disciplines, having won once for physics and once for chemistry. Sure, that seems impressive, but she has zero career NHL goals and Auston Matthews has four, so who’s the real hero?