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Devils captain Nico Hischier says Auston Matthews should be nominated for the Selke

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Photo credit:Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
17 days ago
Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews is making a historic push to close out the 2023-24 season. Only two years after becoming the first Maple Leaf to score 60 goals in a single season, the Scottsdale product has not only broken his own Leafs record, he also became the only active player to score 66 goals in a single season, the first to do so since Mario Lemieux, and the most since Alex Ovechkin’s 65-goal campaign in 2007-08. Obviously, the argument can be made that Ovechkin’s feat was harder given the rise in scoring over the past 16 years, but the fact remains that Matthews has been getting well-deserved recognition around the league. Not only for his other-worldly ability to put pucks in the net but for his defensive play too.
Although Matthews has never been a serious contender for the Frank J. Selke trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive player each season, he’s earned some recognition in that category – he’s received Selke nominations in five of his seven years in the league so far, with his highest placing coming in at tenth in 2021-22. He leads all Leafs forwards in blocked shots with 89 and is currently tied for second in the league in takeaways with 81. His advanced stats paint him in a positive light on the defensive side of things, but you don’t need to be an analytics guru to recognize his ability on the other side of the puck. He’s a master of the stick lift and his blocked shots are even more impressive when you consider his lack of time on the penalty kill.
Leafs captain John Tavares, who’s been able to watch Matthews’ play closer than just about anybody, recently threw his support behind him for a late push to get him nominated for the Selke:
“He should be right there. He should be, to me, he’s right in the mix and should be nominated for both. I think the type of season he’s having, what he can potentially do here from a goal-scoring standpoint. And to be able to do that and just to be as well-rounded as he is, it’s just even more impressive. He’s not just a trigger guy or always just put in offensive situations. He plays in all areas of the game. He carries play, wins so many puck battles. Obviously, his takeaways are exceptional. I don’t think he always gets enough credit for just how smart he is and just positions he puts himself in, especially how hard teams defend him and how he always consistently finds openings, open space. And just the timing and all those sorts of things. So he’s just as well rounded as the players you’re gonna find in our game today. So it’d be great to see him get the recognition on both those fronts.”
It’s one thing to get praise like that from your own captain, but it’s different when it comes from the captain of another team, and somebody who’s been recognized for his defensive play in addition to that. New Jersey Devils captain Nico Hischier, who finished second in Selke voting last season, talked to reporters ahead of Tuesday night’s game between the Leafs and Devils and echoed Tavares’ comments on  Matthews’ game.
Hischier wasn’t the only member of the Devils’ collective to comment on Matthews’ defensive abilities. Head coach and former Leaf Travis Green also commended him, speaking as somebody who was a rookie in the NHL when Alex Mogilny and Teemu Selanne were setting goal-scoring records of their own.
“The thing about Auston is he’s a big centre that controls the game in many ways.” Green told the media. “Usually guys that score that many goals are just pure goal scorers. It’s well known he brings a lot of other things to the game”
Matthews has four games left to reach 70 goals, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Selanne and Mogilny did it in 1992-93. I’d imagine the Leafs will rest Matthews for one of the final two games against their likely first-round matchup Florida Panthers, or last year’s first-round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, but considering how many times he’s shown the ability to score more than one goal a game, it’s not at all out of the question. It’s likely that he’s got bigger ambitions on his mind, but either way, he deserves his flowers for the feat.

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