The Toronto Maple Leafs are for real.
Qualifying for the postseason only one year removed from finishing dead last in the NHL standings cements you as such. One of the main reasons for the resurgence, was No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews.
And, if you ask Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, Matthews is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential.
"He's a competitive guy and he expects to take a step this year and we do as well," Babcock said Sunday, according to NHL.com's Adam Kimelman.
"I don't measure guys by points, I measure guys by how they play and how they compete every day and how much better they get in their determination. We're excited to see what he can do. He feels he's a real good player and wants to be one of the best players in the game."
Thanks in large part to Matthews, the Leafs are no longer a club that teams steamroll through, a trend that has a lot to do with the No. 1 pick's sound two-way game.
"He really improved his 200-foot game last year, more and more pace," said Babcock. "He's gotten way better without the puck so he has the puck more. He can play against everybody. He's got a lot of growth options."
While Matthews' 40-goal, 69-point season is impressive, it's the rest of Toronto's young roster that has its head coach fired up.
"Obviously we have good young players," said Babcock. "We have a lot of them. It's kind of a group that's growing up together. But it's one year and one year doesn't make a career.
"You have to do it again and again and again. We're excited about our opportunities."
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