Leafs’ Auston Matthews earns ultimate Brett Hull praise after scoring 66th

From one incredible goal scorer to another.

Auston Matthews looking happy with fire around him, Brett Hull in image looking impressed, Toronto Maple Leafs logo

Brett Hull is a legendary National Hockey League goal scorer, finding the back of the net 741 times over his two-time Stanley Cup winning career. The Hall of Famer is one of the best scorers in history, and he’s been extremely impressed with Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews this season.

One American showered another with praise after Matthews scored goal No. 66 in Tuesday night’s 5-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils — in the process becoming the first player to score 66 or more goals in a campaign since Mario Lemieux did it in 1995-96, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.

“It’s nice to see what Matthews is doing,” Hull told LeBrun from Nashville a day after Matthews reached the milestone.

“Because that’s part of the game that I love. I love seeing it. I love how he enjoys doing it. He does it in a lot of different ways. You can look at me and Ovi, we were kind of set in our ways. It worked, which was nice. But Auston does it in a myriad of ways, which is probably why he’s getting those kind of totals.”

Matthews is in the midst of his best campaign with the Leafs in 2023-24, putting together a season seriously worthy of Hart Trophy consideration. With 66 goals and 104 points in just 77 contests — and an opportunity to hit the 70-mark with four games left — he’s looking like a true top-three player in the game.

Hull has been especially impressed with how Matthews is willing to pay the price to score more difficult goals.

“That’s what you have to do if you’re going to be a goal scorer,” continued the current executive vice-president of the St. Louis Blues. “Anyone who wants to listen, I tell them, ‘You’re going to get some goals from the outside, but if you want to get a lot of goals, you’ve got to get dirty. You’ve got to take a beating in front.’ And it’s worth it at the end.”

Brett Hull one of the great goal scorers in league history

Dallas Stars former player Brett Hull answers questions during a press conference introducing new owner Tom Gaglardi (not pictured) at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
If Matthews does score 70 goals in 2023-24 with the Leafs, it would be insane. He’s already having the best pure goal scoring season in nearly three decades.

But let’s not forget what Brett Hull did while he was still in the league. Until this season, he was the first American to score 65-plus goals in a single year, per LeBrun. He also happened to score an absolutely absurd 72 goals in 80 games in 1989-90, following it up with 86 tallies in 78 games the next season and 70 more in 73 the year after that.

Make that 228 goals in 231 games over three seasons. That is absolutely ridiculous, regardless of when it happened.

“It was surreal,” Hull reflected. “I remember my 86-goal year, I felt like I was scoring every shift. That’s what it felt like. And then to come up six short of Wayne [Gretzky’s 92-goal record], I can’t imagine what he felt. He only had 120 assists to go along with those 92 goals.”

Matthews still has a long way to go as he works his way up the all-time goal charts — he’s currently scored 365 NHL goals. He’s got a serious shot to end his career as one of the league’s best goal scorers. But right now, his focus will be on helping the Leafs as they quest to bring a Stanley Cup back to Toronto for the first time since 1967.

Still, what a season it’s been for — at least currently — the greatest scorer in the National Hockey League.

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