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Sabres Notebook: Toronto's trio of rookies making history

The National Hockey League hasn't seen a rookie class like this since the 1980s.

Auston Matthews set a number of rookie records with his goal Monday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 4-2, in KeyBank Center.

William Nylander fed him the pass for his 60th point of the season while Mitch Marner's assist on Nazem Kadri's goal gave him 60 points.

According to Elias Sports, that makes the Toronto Maple Leafs the second team in NHL history to feature three rookies with 60-plus points joining the 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques.

Those three rookies with the Nordiques were Peter Stastny (109 points), Anton Stastny (85 points) and Dale Hunter (63 points). That's some pretty good company to keep.

The reason for the Toronto trio's success?

"Well they're good," Leafs' coach Mike Babcock said. "That's just the reality. They're real good players. We're fortunate we have lots of good rookies … they've all had real strong years."

But talent only takes guys so far. Leafs' goalie Frederick Andersen can attest to the other key part of their game – their work ethic and desire to be good beyond a rookie splash.

"They're very creative," said Andersen who has to face all three daily in practice. "They're obviously skilled but the most important thing is their work ethic. They keep working to get better. They're not just satisfied being good rookies. They want to be leaders of the team and that pushes everyone else. That's just the mentality we have in the locker room right now."

The mentality for Matthews is to score, score and score some more.

Monday night he netted his 39th goal of the season, setting the record for most goals by an American-born NHL rookie. He passed Neal Broten, who scored 38 with Minnesota in the 1981-82 season.

It was also his 67th point of the season, setting a new Maple Leafs' record for points by a rookie, breaking the mark of 66 set by Peter Ihnacak in the 1982-83 season.

Oh, and for good measure, Matthews now has goals in five straight games, tying the Leafs' rookie goal streak record set by Gaye Stewart in 1942.

But the accolades, they roll of Matthews back. The Leafs control their own destiny and are in a position to clinch a playoff spot when they host the Washington Capitals Tuesday.

"I play with some pretty good players so a lot of credit to them but the most important part is the team getting better each segment and we're in a good spot right now," Matthews said.

Nylander, who plays to the right of Matthews, has seen a fair share of his passes end up in the back of the opponent's net.

"You know Auston's probably scoring," Nylander said of feeding his linemate the puck. "When you're scoring at a goal every other game, if you get a good chance, he's probably putting it in the back of the net. He's been playing terrific. On a good point streak now, too."

And Matthews returned the compliment.

"He sees the ice so well. He skates so well," Matthews said of Nylander. Monday's goal was "just another example of what he can do when he gets the puck."

Nylander has 38 assists on the season with 22 goals and has twice been named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for October and for March.

Marner, who registered his 42nd assist Monday set the Toronto record for assists in a season by a rookie on March 30 in Nashville. The previous record for assists by a rookie was 40, set by Gus Bodnar in 1943-44.


Kyle Okposo missed his third game with an undisclosed illness.

Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that Okposo "is still under the weather and not able to play."

Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Cody Franson returned to the lineup after missing the last six games with a groin injury.

"It took longer than I hoped, but good to be back," Franson said. "It was a hyper-extension type thing. So it's just one of those things you just have to wait out and wait for it to settle back down. It took little bit for the inflammation to go away and back to normal."

"I think Cody's really made strides in his game for our team this year in a lot of areas and played really well for us," Bylsma said. "I think he's proved a lot with his play this year and been an effective player for us. He's coming off a groin injury and should be back at 100 percent."


There's been a whole lot of sibling rivalry in the Sabres game notes lately. Monday was the third straight game that a Sabre played against his brother. Monday it was Alexander Nylander vs. William Nylander of the Maple Leafs.

On Sunday, it was the younger Stephen Gionta getting the best of Brian Gionta when the New York Islanders scored a 4-2 win.

On March 28, Marcus Foligno faced his older brother, Nick Foligno with the captain of the Blue Jackets getting the win. Columbus defeated the Sabres, 3-1.

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