It’s no secret the Leafs have been trying (and succeeding) to build up a stable of cheap veterans to fill out their roster and likely garner some trade interest when the deadline rolls around, and Shawn Matthias is obviously part of that group. Coming off a career year goal-wise, Babcock will likely rely on Matthias to chip in some offence on a team starved for goals, to go along with some heavy work on the penalty-kill and perhaps an overall bigger role than he’s used to. Put simply, Matthias appears to be a useful player, and on a relatively cheap one year contract, Toronto can easily afford to take a look at what he can bring as he heads into his ninth NHL season.
Matthias was drafted out of Belleville by the Red Wings in 2006 after a pretty pedestrian draft year. After putting up some better numbers the following season, he was dealt to Florida, along with picks, for Todd Bertuzzi.
Matthias would stay with Florida for the next seven years, bouncing up and down from the minors a little in the early days, before again being part of a trade for a big name veteran when the Panthers sent him and Jacob Markstrom to Vancouver for Roberto Luongo in 2014. Matthias finished out the 2013-14 season with the Canucks and suited up for them over a full campaign last year before hitting the free agent market this summer where the Leafs came calling and scooped him up for $2.3-million on a one year deal.
Matthias isn’t exactly a possession driver, or at least hasn’t been in the role he’s played in Vancouver, but he’s been able to put the puck in the net at a clip well beyond his minutes. We all know the Leafs are in desperate need of some finishing power, so he could end up being quite valuable there this upcoming season. Here’s a quick look at his individual production and possession rates from 2013 to now, from Dominic Galamini’s OwnThePuck.
If you look back at Matthias’ 18-goal season with the Canucks in 2014-15, at first glance you’d probably assume he rode a high shooting percentage and is due for a step back, but he’s actually been scoring at a high rate for the last three seasons. In that time he’s notched 44 goals over 203 games, which works out to about a 17.8 goals-per-season clip based on 82 games. Keep in mind he’s been averaging less than 15 minutes of ice-time over that stretch. The guy can score.
What to expect
I think this year we can expect Matthias to get a bump up in terms of ice-time and how he’s relied upon for some offence. Trading Phil Kessel left a lot of goals to make up for the Leafs, and at only 27-years-old, Matthias shouldn’t really be taking a step back in any parts of his game, so there’s a solid chance he can step in and deliver 15-20 goals if he plays the entire year. And it’s worth noting he’s been reliable over the past few years in terms of his health, missing no more than five games in any of the last four seasons.
When Matthias was brought aboard, it was reported that Babcock was a big help in recruiting him, so it’s expected he’ll play in a number of situations and be an important piece of the team, at least as far as one-year “show me” deals go. Lamoriello mentioned in his interview with Bob McKenzie earlier this week that the Leafs are going to be looking heavily at who can handle Babcock’s style of play and the overall direction of the organization going forward, and those who can’t will be sent on their way. If Matthias is someone who can fit that mold (and I’m assuming Babcock believes he will), he’ll probably get another deal with Toronto with a little more term. Again, even though he seems like such a longtime vet, Matthias is still a fairly young player and should have plenty of years left in him.
- Born in The Six
- 2008 World Junior Championship gold medal (Team Canada)