Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs’ Matthews Continues to Make His Mark

When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Auston Matthews first overall in 2016, he already exuded elite, superstar potential after a standout draft season playing with the Zurich Lions in the Swiss Hockey League. Since Mats Sundin left, the team has dreamed of acquiring a number one centreman to help lead this team to a Stanley Cup. We knew he was going to be good, but fans weren’t ready for what was about to happen.

One game. That’s all it took for Matthews to make an immediate impact in the National Hockey League as a premier player and goalscorer.

Setting Records from the Very Start

Matthews’ phenomenal, record-setting rookie season started against the Ottawa Senators. He is the only player in the modern era to score four goals in his first NHL game. Many Maple Leafs fans, NHL players and even Matthews, himself, will remember that one game for the rest of their lives.

Here are a few more of Matthews’ accomplishments from that season:

-Passed Peter Ihnacak for most points by a Maple Leafs rookie.
-Broke Wendel Clark’s 31-year-old franchise record of goals by a Maple Leafs rookie (previously at 34).
-Tied Dave Andreychuk’s team record of 14 game-opening goals.
-His 40 goals are the most by an American-born player since Neal Broten scored 38 in 1981-82 with the Minnesota North Stars.
-Most goals by an NHL rookie since Alex Ovechkin (2004-05).

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Matthews finished his extraordinary rookie season with 40 goals and 69 points en route to winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

Fast forward to 2018-19, Matthews became only the fifth player in NHL history to record seven straight multi-point games to start a season. He joined Mario Lemieux and Kevin Stevens (1992-93), Mike Bossy (1984-85) and Wayne Gretzky (1983-84). While Matthews had the lowest point totals of the players on that list, it’s still a great accomplishment to be in a group with some of the best scorers in NHL history.

Matthews Is a Dangerous Goalscorer

It comes as no surprise, but since 2016-17, with a minimum of 200 games played, Matthews is one of the most dangerous and prolific goalscorers in the league. For three years, he has been an offensive power-house, scoring 30 goals or more in each of his first three seasons. Here’s a look at more of Matthews’ offensive goal-scoring production.

Category Auston Matthews’ Numbers & Rank
Goals 111 (5th Overall)
Goals per Game 0.52 (2nd Overall)
Even-strength Goals 86 (2nd Overall)
First Goals Scored 22 (6th Overall)
Game-winning Goals 18 (20th Overall)
Goals per 60 (All strengths) 1.76 (7th Overall)

It’s outstanding that
Matthews is able to at least be in the top five for some of the above
categories. He’s in the ranks of the best, including second only to Ovechkin in
goals per game and Connor McDavid in even-strength goals. That’s some great
company to be with and Matthews is barely 22-years-old.

For the 2018-19 season, Matthews’ individual expected goals was 30.94; he was expected to score at least 31 goals for the season. He surpassed that expectation scoring 37 goals with a 14.74 shooting percentage. While he ranked 11th in individual expected goals, he was still among the league’s top scorers with Ovechkin, McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin and Maple Leafs teammate John Tavares.

While he’s only three years into his career, Matthews is averaging a 15.5 shooting percentage, which is pretty impressive considering the number of shots he’s taking combined with his deceptive shot and accuracy. Here are two images of Matthews’ shot and goal map from IcyData Hockey:

Auston Matthews shot percentages, 2016-18. (Chart from icydata.hockey)
Auston Matthews goal percentages, 2016-18. (Chart From icydata.hockey)

Many players have their “office,” which is where they like to post up and gain open ice for a shot. Matthews generally likes to setup in the middle of the ice where the hash marks are. Forty-one percent of his shots come from outside the crease and his goals from that location come in at a staggering 52 percent. It’s safe to assume that Matthews is extremely dangerous in the high-danger area. If he continues to improve his shot, he could shoot more from the outside, potentially increasing his goal percentage.

His Shot Is One of the Best in the League

If there is one way to describe Matthews, it’s deceptive. For three years, goalies are still having a hard time keeping the puck out of the net.

Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

He’s able to curl and drag the puck on his stick in order to change the angle of his shot and get the goalie out of position. He does this from so far out that it’s difficult to anticipate where the puck is going to go. Changing that angle and bringing the puck in closer, that’s how he deceives the opposition. Here’s a video of his first goal of the 2018-19 season against the Montreal Canadiens.

Everything in the scouting report is there: the curl and drag around Jeff Petry, the changing of the angle of the puck of where he wants it to go, getting Carey Price to move ever so slightly out of position for him to pick his shot over his glove. It’s also interesting to note that goal was from the top of the circle where he’s scored 13 percent of his goals.

It’s no secret that Matthews is an extremely talented and skilled player. Ever since his rookie year, he continues to get better each season and wows everyone with his skill and shot. His ability to make an impact in the offensive zone is in the same category as other big-name players in the league. This has given him the status as one of the game’s best offensive players.

Even though he’s entering his fourth season, there’s still more that Matthews can give. His career is off to an impressive start, but imagine what he’s going to be like four, five or even 10 years down the line. We’ve seen Matthews at his best, but there’s still much more to come.

Statistics and numbers from NHL.com, Evolving Hockey and IcyData

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