Auston Matthews scores goals, and plenty of them

The Leafs and their fans have been crying out for a franchise center since the days of Sundin, and with them set to pick up Auston Matthews about seven weeks from now, they’ll finally get one. 

But over the years that image of a dream pivot has sort of been seen as a distributor. In Kessel’s time here, we barked about him, as a sniper, not really having the support of a good puck-mover with vision. [It turned out he was a fine playmaker on his own, which quieted that down at least a little]. With Sundin it was almost the opposite, him never being given a true finisher outside Mogilny, and his distributing skills never being fully realized.

I’m probably speaking for myself to some extent, but the thinking in recent years has been that a player like Henrik Sedin or Nicklas Backstrom, a sort of 20G-50A guy would be the key ingredient in turning this team around.

Matthews won’t be that.

Prolific goal scoring ability and doesn’t wait for opportunities to show themselves. He makes his own luck, so to speak, maximizing the use of his body and stick to gain leverage against the toughest of opponents.

That’s a quick snippet from Matthews’ profile at EliteProspects, written by Curtis Joe this year.

It appears that we can probably toss out the idea of a pure passer when it comes to our pal Auston here. Toronto is getting someone more complete. Matthews’ goal-scoring ability as a center is absurd, and always has been.

matthewsclose

If you look over his highlights (which I’m sure many of you have since Saturday), something that becomes clear in watching Matthews is that he’s able to chip in a lot of goals from close range. His ability to jump in tight to cash in as things develop in front of the net is incredible.

They look like easy goals, but of course, if they were easy everyone would score them. This is how he “makes his own luck”.

The Numbers

Going back as far as his time in Midget, you can see at every level that Matthews has been able to score goals at an obscene rate. In fact his 55 goals in a single season for the USNTDP is a record, just ahead of Patrick Kane’s mark of 52 from nearly a decade earlier.

matthews goals

(Numbers via EliteProspects)

As you can see, Matthews has never had trouble piling in goals at any stage in his junior or pro career. He didn’t even take a step back when playing against men this past season, with goals making up the majority of his point total, which has been the case a few times for him. 

His totals during tournament play present some small sample size chunks, but add it all up, and overall at the international level as a junior he’s scored 25 goals in 32 games – a clip of 0.78 per game. 

‘Snip Show’

matthews2

When it comes to comparing players, a lot of times folks are looking to put prospects into neat packages. They want to lump them in with a pro player such as a bruising forward like Lucic (think Crouse), or perhaps even a two-way possession demon like Kopitar (who Matthews has drawn comparisons to).

Placing guys into those style molds is difficult, and often turns out well off the mark. Matthews will be Matthews. 

But in terms of boxcar production we can probably at least make some predictions there. In the case of Matthews, we’ll likely see him turn out as a balanced threat at center in terms of offence, and there aren’t a ton of those guys around. Put another way, his numbers will probably shake out more along the lines of centers like Tavares or Seguin or Eichel as opposed to some of the assist machines around the league like we mentioned up top. And don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a knock on the latter at all. It’s just, we should get ready to see this kid to light the lamp plenty in his own right. It’s what he’s always done. 

  • Capt.Jay

    I’m absolutely loving this. I love that Leaf nation is being far more patient then anyone could’ve thought possible. The fact that the fan base and management are on the same page must make this so much easier on Shanahan and Lou to let Hunter and Dubus do their thing.

    Good times ahead.

    • silentbob

      The article said that putting prospects into “neat little packages” often isn’t the best way to approach, I think the same is true for players jobs on lines (Generally speaking, when a player like Komarov is on your topline, its clear why he is there).

      Regardless who Matthews plays with (early in his career, I would assume he’ll play with more veteran players – for the sake of argument lets say he and JVR play together next year) it won’t be a “you are the passer, you are the shooter” situation. You want Matthews and his linemates able to pass and shoot, able to distribute and finish based on the situation.

      When Sundin played with Mogilny, one wasn’t “the distributor”, they were just two skilled players playing together.

  • Gary Empey

    Great article. I was just reading your tweets about Mattews vs. Laine in terms of which one looks to be a better goal scorer. It really seems Matthews’ goal scoring and shooting abilities have generally been overlooked, as everyone clings to the archetypes of “Laine = scoring, Matthews = 2-way”. It’s an interesting topic, I’d love to see it explored a bit further.

  • silentbob

    When I look at the Leafs roster and prospect system it doesn’t appear that they have very many (if any) “snipers” or “playmakers”. It seems like all (or at least most) of their offensive players are in that Tavares/Eichel vein rather then snipers or assist machines. With that kind of make-up it gives the coaches more freedom (ie – we don’t need to find a playmaker to match up with this sniper) in putting their combos together. I think next year Babcock’s lines will all include 1 rookie and 1 grinder (the 4th line may reverse this). For example:

    Komarov – Stamkos – Nylander/
    JVR – Matthews – Laich/
    Machalek – Kadri – Lindberg/
    Leivo – Bozak – Hyman
    Greening

    Something like that.

  • Mcline

    He scores the dirty goals, which are harder to come by in the NHL. The Swiss league pales in comparison to even the AHL in terms of speed/skill.

    I doubt he’ll be able to score as many in front of the net, or walk around 3 players goals..

    • magesticRAGE

      He will score about the same. I think the increase in the quality of his linemates with counter the increase in defense he’ll face. There will be an adjustment period, but it won’t be long. Even now, his playing against some of the best players in the world, which will help.
      He’s already putting up points, primary assist.

  • silentbob

    Matthews was 4th in goal scoring in the NLA this year, with 24 goals (leaders had 26).

    And he only played 36 of 50 games!

    Had he played all games, he was on a 33 goal pace, which would have been first. (A guy who scored 25 goals had a 29-goal pace, while the other two with 26 goals played all 50 games)

  • Mitch92

    Looking at these highlights of Matthews wearing the red white and blue USA jersey absolutely sickens me! I can’t believe Leaf fans are going gaga over team USA because of a guy that they might draft? Gary Bettman must be secretly loving thinking about Toronto, the mecca of hockey, worshiping an American hockey player as their potential savior which just makes the possibility of drafting him that much worse!