The Toronto Maple Leafs have been without a captain for nearly four seasons and Auston Matthews says he would love to accept that storied role.

"The captaincy in hockey in general is a huge honour, but especially in Toronto," he told Craig Morgan of The Athletic this week. "You see the names of the guys that have come before you. We have all the captains 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 honour, in my opinion, to bestow that in Toronto."

No player has been awarded the 'C' on his sweater since the Leafs traded blueliner Dion Phaneuf prior to the trade deadline in 2016 and they are among seven NHL teams that do not have a captain going into next season.

Patrick Marleau, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly each wore the 'A' last season for Toronto, with Matthews rotated in as well.

"I don't think it would be awkward," Matthews said about the chances of being named captain. "Everybody has the same goal in mind. Everybody wants to contribute in their own way and do what's best for the team.

"When somebody is ready, (GM) Kyle (Dubas) and the staff will make a good choice. No matter who it is, you move forward, do your thing and put in the work."

Matthews, 21, signed a five-year, $58.17 million contract extension with the Leafs last winter with an $11.634 million cap hit. In 212 career NHL games, he has 111 goals and 205 points.

"Whether it's me or it's someone else, it comes with a lot of responsibility, but whether I get it or not, I feel comfortable regardless," Matthews added. "We've got a lot of good candidates, guys that have been in the League for a while, guys that have been captains before like John Tavares, and guys that have worn letters for quite some time."

It was 25 years ago this week that Doug Gilmour was named captain of the Maple Leafs by head coach Pat Burns. As to who he thinks should be Toronto's next captain, Gilmour says "that's none of my business" but believes they will make the right choice when the time comes. 

"Obviously, there's a lot of pressure here," he told TSN's Mark Masters on Thursday. "But you don't hide from pressure, you absorb it and go out and, the biggest thing is, when you wearing that you have to be the hardest-working guy in practice and the hardest-working guy on game days."

 

Gilmour explains biggest challenge of being Maple Leafs captain

Doug Gilmour joins Mark Masters to share his thoughts on the first annual Hockey Night in Brampton, discuss what he remembers about becoming captain of the Maple Leafs 25 years ago, and what the biggest challenge is about being the captain of the Leafs.