Matthews, Marner, Nylander a historic NHL rookie trio

Evan Presement
April 04 2017 11:33AM

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PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN E. SOKOLOWSKI-USA TODAY SPORTS

Sorry in advance, Jim Matheson, but the Leafs’ rookies are really, really good. So good, in fact, that Toronto’s ‘Big Three’ may be the best trio of rookies to ever play for the same team at the same time.

The ‘Big Three’ refers to Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner. If you follow hockey, you know how well these three have performed this season. Matthews is all but a lock for the Calder, Nylander has won rookie of the month twice, and Marner has proven to be one of the most exciting players in the NHL.

Had Marner, Matthews, and Nylander all come into the NHL at the same time for different teams, hockey fans would have considered themselves spoiled. The fact that they all play for the same team, when you think about it, is absolutely mind blowing.

Jeff Veillette wrote a great piece a few weeks ago comparing Toronto’s three rookies to those of the 1992/93 Winnipeg Jets. Of course, that Jets rookie class was one that included Teemu Selanne, Alexei Zhamnov, and Keith Tkachuck, and is touted as being one of the best ever.

That got me thinking… How do Matthews, Nylander, and Marner stack up historically against some of the other best single-team rookie trios?

As of April 3rd, Matthews has 67 points, with Marner and Nylander tied with 60 each. Before I get into how these three stack up against some of the best ever, here’s just how impressive those point totals are: From 2008/09 to 2015/16, only six rookies hit the 60-point mark. Those six would be Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, Johnny Gaudreau, Jeff Skinner, Filip Forsberg, and Nathan MacKinnon.

Three players on a team with 60 points is impressive. Three rookies on the same team with 60 points is a miracle. Here’s how they stack up historically against other single-team rookie classes.

TEAM WITH AT LEAST 3 ROOKIES W/ 50+ POINTS

Note: Players in bold/italics accomplished 50+ points for the same team in 1979, the same year as the NHL-WHA merger.

  • Brett Callighen, Blair MacDonald, Wayne Gretzky (1979 Oilers)
  • Jordy Douglas, Mark Howe, Mike Rodgers (1979 Whalers)
  • Ron Wilson, Peter Sullivan, Morris Lukowich (1979 Jets)
  • Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Dale Hunter (1980 Nordiques)

Only four times has a team had three rookies score 50+ points in the same season. Only once has that happened outside of 1979, when a year later, Peter Stastny (109), Anton Stastny (85), and Dale Hunter (63) accomplished the feat.

When looking at teams with at least two rookies who scored at least 50 points, the number of times rises to 20, which is still an incredibly small total. Even with the lowered bar, though, two rookies have only scored 50+ for the same team five times since 1990, and only twice since the turn of the century. Those two times include Danny Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk for the Thrashers in ’01, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for the Hawks in ’07.

Matthews, Marner, and Nylander are just the fifth trio of rookies in NHL history to score at least 50 points for the same team in the same season, and the first since 1980.

TEAM WITH AT LEAST 3 ROOKIES W/ 60+ POINTS

  • Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Dale Hunter (1980 Nordiques)

Yup. That’s it.

Last night in Buffalo, the Leafs’ trio became only the second threesome of rookies in NHL history to hit at least 60 points each.

Furthermore, when lowering the bar to just two rookies instead of three, this has only happened nine times, with four of those times coming in the 1979/80 season. The last time two rookies hit 60 points for the same team was the Jets in 1992.

Essentially, two rookies putting 60 points is unheard of. Three is historic.

MATTHEWS, MARNER, & NYLANDER VS. STASTNY BROS & DALE HUNTER

Since we’ve established that these are the two best single-team rookie trios, why not (roughly) compare them?

Here’s Matthews, Nylander, and Marner’s pace over an 82 game season:

Matthews: 70 points
Nylander: 64 points
Marner: 67 points
Combined age: 59-years-old

And, just for fun, here’s how both Stastny’s and Hunter’s point totals look, adjusted for era:

Peter Stastny: 84 (109 actual points)
Anton Stastny: 66 (85 actual points)
Dale Hunter: 48 (63 actual points)
Combined age: 65-years-old

Leafs rookie total: 201
Nordiques rookie total: 198 

So, there you have it.

Is this conclusive proof that Toronto’s trio is better than Quebec’s? No, not exactly (although Toronto’s rookies are six years younger and would be on pace to put up three more points). Still, Leafs fans should only hope that Matthews, Marner, and Nylander turn out to be as productive as both Stastny’s and Hunter were throughout their career.

However, what this does show is that what Leafs fans (and hockey fans in general) are witnessing is something historic, and something that may never happen again.

Sorry, Jim, but I get the feeling that you’ll be hearing about these kids for years to come.

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I'm @e_presement on twitter, I'm always right in my analysis, and I love the game.
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