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Auston Matthews one of 'many players' who could be Maple Leafs captain

Toronto has 'character people' who 'can do the job,' GM Lou Lamoriello says

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Auston Matthews could be one of several players on the Toronto Maple Leafs who could eventually be their captain, general manager Lou Lamoriello said Saturday at the NHL Scouting Combine.

Asked specifically about Matthews ever filling the role, Lamoriello said, "I don't think that's a fair question. Until somebody is captain or isn't a captain, that's an unfair question since you [have] so many players (on the roster) who are character people and can do the job."

Lamoriello reiterated that he would not be surprised if the Maple Leafs did not name a captain for a second straight season.

"But that's not saying we're not going to have a captain," he said. "It's something that's just not on the forefront or that we're thinking about right now and we'll just go from there." 

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (19 years, 266 days) became the youngest captain in NHL history when he was named on Oct. 5, 2016.

Matthews, who turns 20 on Sept. 17, led NHL rookies and the Maple Leafs in goals (40), points (69) and shots on goal (279) in the regular season and is a finalist for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL rookie of the year. Toronto qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2012-13, improving by 26 points over last season when it was 30th in the NHL (95-69).

The Maple Leafs, the second wild card from the Eastern Conference, lost in six games to the Washington Capitals in the first round.

Toronto has not had a captain since defenseman Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016. He was captain since the 2010-11 season.

Last season, forwards Tyler Bozak, 31, and Leo Komarov, 30, and defensemen Morgan Rielly, 23, and Matt Hunwick, 32, were alternate captains.

Lamoriello also discussed the NHL Expansion Draft that will provide the Vegas Golden Knights with their players. 

"We all know each team will lose a player so it depends where you are within your organization as far as where the difficulties come in," he said. "We're in a good situation only because we have so many young players who are exempt from the expansion draft."

First- and second-year professional players do not have to be protected.

Toronto had 123 goals scored by rookies this season, including Matthews and forwards William Nylander (22 goals), Connor Brown (20) and Mitchell Marner (19).

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