Maple Leafs Rookie Class Nearing Franchise Goal Record

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffMarch 16, 2017

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 07:  Nazim Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates a goal with Auston Matthews #34 and William Nylander #29 during an NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at Air Canada Centre on March 7, 2017 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

When Nikita Soshnikov scored his fifth goal of the season late in the second period of Wednesday's 7-2 loss to the Florida Panthers, it marked the 100th goal scored by a Toronto Maple Leafs rookie this season, per Sportsnet Stats.

The rookie class—comprised of eight different goal scorers—needs just eight more tallies to tie the franchise record set in the NHL's inaugural season (1917-18). The 2016 first-overall pick, Auston Matthews (31 goals) leads the group through 68 games this season.

William Nylander (18 goals), Mitch Marner (17 goals) and Connor Brown (15 goals) have also contributed significantly to the outburst from the team's first-year players. In fact, the Maples Leafs have four of the top six goal-scoring rookies in the league.

Matthews trails only the Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine among the rookies but has gone cold since the calendar turned to March. The rookie sensation has failed to notch a point despite totaling 13 shots on goal in six games this month.

A season after finishing with the worst record in the league, the Maple Leafs now sit on the fringes of the playoffs. The club remains just one point behind the New York Islanders for the last playoff seed in the Eastern Conference but has played one fewer game.

Toronto appears to be trending in the wrong direction, however. While the Tampa Bay Lightning have won seven of its last 10 games and possess 77 points along with the Islanders in a tie for the final playoff spot, the Maple Leafs have gone just 4-3-3 over that span, including six losses in their last nine games.

Should the Leafs manage to snag a playoff spot, it would mark the team's first postseason appearance since 2012-13 and second since 2003-04. Even if it doesn't pan out, the team at least has a solid group of young players to build around moving forward.