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Matthews says Maple Leafs have leaders without captain

Center among contenders, vows role won't change either way

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Auston Matthews reaffirmed how much of an honor it would be to be named captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs but said whatever decision is made will not affect his leadership role.

"Depending on who it is, I don't think it makes that much of a difference because I think everyone on their own is a leader and brings something different to the team," the center said Friday at the NHL Media Players Tour. "That core group of guys are the guys who need to step up and say whatever is needed to be said."

Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas has repeatedly said naming a captain must be well thought out because of the prestige and responsibility it carries for an Original Six team. Toronto has not had a captain since defenseman Dion Phaneuf was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 9, 2016.

"I think internally every team has leaders, and sometimes the guy that's not wearing the C is the actual C, right?" Matthews said. "I think it's important. We're still a young team and having guys developing and coming into their own. When the time is right and the staff -- [Kyle] and management -- feels comfortable and feels like they'll make the right decision, they'll make the right decision."

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Matthews

Matthews, the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft who has 205 points (111 goals, 94 assists) in 212 games during his first three seasons, is among the leading candidates in a group that includes defenseman Morgan Rielly, center John Tavares and unsigned restricted free agent forward Mitchell Marner.

The 21-year-old told The Athletic last month what being captain would mean to him.

"The captaincy in hockey in general is a huge honor, but especially in Toronto," he said in an interview published Aug. 23. "You see the names of the guys that have come before you. We have all the captain's banners lined up for us in our practice rink. You know the names, what they brought to the team, their competitiveness, what they did throughout the community, so it's a bit of a bigger honor, in my opinion, to bestow that in Toronto."

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