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Rick Zamperin: Next captain of the Maple Leafs is a 3 horse race

When it comes time to name the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the decision might be easier than we think.

While I’ve said in the past that I believe John Tavares would get the “C,” I no longer think that is going to be the case.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Tavares, not Matthews, should be Maple Leafs’ next captain

And that’s not meant to be a knock on Tavares. He has been an absolute gem of a player on and off the ice since becoming a Maple Leaf. “Johnny T” will certainly be a candidate when it comes down to selecting Toronto’s first captain since Dion Phaneuf was ushered out of town in 2016.

Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly are the only other candidates that should be considered for the captaincy.

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On Thursday, Matthews was one of four players to be named team captains at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose on Jan. 26 through fan voting, along with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon.

I know it’s fan voting, but it still says a lot about those four players. They aren’t only fan favourites, they are four of the best players in the league and two of them (McDavid and Ovechkin) are captains of their respective teams.

The more I think about it, I think Matthews will be Toronto’s next captain, provided that he signs a long-term contract with the Maple Leafs when his current entry-level contract expires next summer.

Rielly and Tavares would be great choices, but Matthews has proven to me that this is his team and he deserves to be captain.