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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews becomes first Maple Leafs player to win Hart Trophy in 67 years

Auston Matthews was awarded the 2022 Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player on Tuesday, becoming the first Toronto Maple Leaf to win the award since Ted Kennedy did it back in 1955.

The Scottsdale, Arizona native set career highs in assists (46) and points (106) this season and became the first NHL player in 10 years to score 60 goals in a season. He set the single-season franchise record for goals (60), eclipsing Rick Vaive’s 54 goals scored during the 1981-82 season.

Matthews also won the Ted Lindsay Award, handed out to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by the players, becoming the first Maple Leafs to ever claim the honour.

While leading the league in goals is hardly the sole measure of an M-V-P season, it’s the manner in which he accomplished the feat that was most impressive.

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On Apr. 9, Matthews completed a string in which he scored 50 goals in his previous 50 games.

A runner-up for the award in 2021, Matthews’ staked his claim for this year’s award with his strong offensive numbers came despite missing the first few games of the season recovering from off-season wrist surgery. He also impressed with his two-way play as a dominant centre in the league.

The Maple Leafs’ first pick (first overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Matthews seemed destined for hardware in his career. He won the Calder Trophy in 2007 after a rookie season that including scoring 40 goals and a record-breaking four goals in his NHL debut on Oct. 12, 2016 against the Ottawa Senators. He is the two-time defending goal-scoring champion, having first won the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy in 2021.

While talk about a potential Hart Trophy became a theme around the Maple Leafs during the back half of the 2021-2022 season, Matthews’ also did his best to change the focus to that of the team instead of his individual accomplishments.

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”It’s humbling,” Matthews said when he became the first Maple Leafs player to eclipse 100 points since Doug Gilmore in 1993. “It’s not about me, it’s a team accomplishment.”

The Hart Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Matthews received his award in Tampa Bay, the site of the his team’s bitter first-round loss during the 2022 playoffs. The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the site of the awards from its regular home in Las Vegas, Nevada to the city that was hosting the 2022 Stanley Cup Final between Games 3 and 4.