And it was written…
“For the hockey gods so loved Leafs Nation, that they gave to them numbers 6, 8, 5, and 13, that whosoever believeth shall not miss the playoffs, but have many sick toe-drags, beauty snips, and a Corsi-For percentage of more than fifty” – Auston 4:16.
|Jeff||Ryan H.||Shawn||Ryan F.||Adam||Dom||Jess||Katy||Readers|
This is Matthews’ first year in the Leafs organization.
|C||Scottsdale, AZ||6’2||216||Left||Zurich Lions||2016 Draft (1-1st)|
|2012-13||15||Arizona Bobcats 16U||Midget||48||55||45||100||N/A||16||N/A|
|16||U.S. National U17 Team||USDP||24||12||21||33||N/A||10||N/A|
|16||U.S. National U18 Team||USDP||20||12||5||17||N/A||8||N/A|
|17||U.S. National U18 Team||USDP||60||55||61||116||N/A||30||N/A|
When the Leafs first won the draft lottery in April, I took a gander at how incredible Matthews has been as a goal-scorer. I wouldn’t say it’s an underrated part of his game, but like I mentioned back then, we’ve been crying out for a pure distributing center on this team for so long, it’s easy to overlook that this kid can fill the net on his own as well. If you look back as far as his days in Midget, he doesn’t fall below 0.5 goals-per-game at any level, including most recently in the Swiss League.
|pGPSn||pGPSs||pGPS%||pGPS PPG||pGPS PP82||pGPSr|
|2 (18/18)||1 (18/18)||50.0% (18/18)||0.91 (1/18)||74.5 (8/18)||45.46 (3/18)|
- pGPSn: The number of matches between the subject and the player-seasons (one season by a single player, i.e, John Tavares 2008 OHL) in the historical sample.
- pGPSs: The number of statistical matches that became NHL regulars. This is determined by playing 200 NHL games.
- pGPS%: Simply s divided by n, this is the percentage of statistical matches that successfully became NHL players.
- pGPS PPG: The NHL points per game of successful matches.
- pGPS P82: The same as pGPS PPG, but stretched over 82 games.
- pGPSr: A bit of a hybrid number, this pGPS Rating combines the percentage and points per game to produce a number that includes both likelihood of success and potential upside.
Based on the success of his historical comparables, Matthews is projected to become a first line forward.
It should be noted that in the specific case of Matthews, his combination of pedigree and unusual league of choice for his draft year allows for an extremely small sample to compare to. In this case, his pGPSs is Rick Nash, who played with HC Davos during the 2004/05 season as a result of the NHL lockout. Nash was already 20 years old and had two NHL seasons (154 GP) under his belt, the latter of which saw him win the Rocket Richard Trophy.
To learn more about the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System, check out this post.
The Eye Test
Leading up to the draft, one of my favourite things I read about Matthews was this Future Considerations excerpt from their pre-draft guide:
“There’s not a lot to pick on, but one knock on Matthews is that at times he can try to do too much and get drawn out of position; a by-product of playing with teammates who cannot match his instincts.”
Essentially, one of his only weaknesses is that players around him haven’t been able to get on level with his passing creativity. What a time to be alive. I think it’s safe to assume when Matthews lines up alongside guys like Nylander and van Riemsdyk, among others at the NHL level, he’ll have players ready to compliment his game.
As for the physical tools, we know Matthews already has a pro build at 6’2″ and over 200 pounds, which is partly why he’s gotten some Kopitar comparisons to this point. He uses that frame to be an absolute killer on the boards, someone who’d be difficult to budge even if his stickhandling wasn’t world class. Unfortunately for defenders, it is, and he owes it to the work he’s put in through some unusual practice.
.”..to fully understand how Auston Matthews got to where he is, you need to know that when he was a boy, he spent thousands of hours on tiny rinks – not much larger than an end zone – fighting off two or three other kids, stickhandling in and around masses of skates and sticks to score a half-dozen goals every game.”
The above is from James Mirtle’s profile of Matthews leading up the draft, which is must-read if you haven’t yet. In these IIHF highlights below, you’ll see that type of handle on display.
As Seen on TV
Like a lot of top picks, Matthews has been on the draft radar for years, and it’s worth reminding everyone again that had he been born two days earlier, he’d have been eligible for the 2015 draft, and now entering his sophomore season in the NHL. The only real argument on that front is whether he’d have been drafted before or after Jack Eichel last summer.
Because beating up on junior aged players last season was going to be a waste of development time, Matthews went to Switzerland last season and played pro. He scored an absurd 24 goals in 36 games, building on his resume that already included a 55-goal record USNTDP season. He’s also had above-point-per-game output at every level, even small samples of tournament play.
The Leafs will have Matthews step into the lineup right away and be a key contributor. Management and the coaching staff will be preaching patience at the beginning of the season, and given he’ll only turn 19 later this month, that’s totally reasonable. But even as an 19-year-old, it’ll just be a matter of weeks before Matthews establishes himself as one of Toronto’s best players, and then works his way into that top center slot.
As for projections models for this upcoming year, Matthews falls anywhere between 42-60 points. If he gets his share of powerplay opportunities, which he should on a relatively weak Leafs club, I think it’s probably reasonable to see him clipping along at a similar pace to Eichel’s last season, when he finished up with 56 total. Another player to keep in mind would be John Tavares, who put up 54 in his rookie campaign. It’s a tall order, but certainly not unrealistic if Matthews plays a full schedule.
As sort of an added bonus for fans, Matthews has already been named to the U23 World Cup roster, ahead of both Boone Jenner and Alex Galchenyuk, established NHL players coming off 30-goal seasons. It’s a testament to how others view his readiness to join the league.
Team NA’s Peter Chiarelli explained his somewhat surprising selection of the youngster after his performance at the World Championships this spring:
“[Matthews] was gaining confidence every game. You can be a bystander and make a play once a period. He was making plays all the time…We can’t keep this guy off the team…We had to get him on the top list, the learning curve notwithstanding“
It might seem like we’re over-hyping Matthews, but he isn’t just a top ten or top five pick, he’s a first overall selection. That’s so rare for the Leafs and their fans – the first time in my life – that it isn’t easy to step away from the usual cautious optimism we put on prospects. All signs point to this guy being a franchise center and a star in the league, so feel free get expectations in line with that.
The Rankings So Far
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2015: #2 Mitch Marner
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #3 William Nylander
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #4 Nikita Zaitsev
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #5 Kasperi Kapanen
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #6 Connor Brown
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #7 Andreas Johnson
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #8 Dmytro Timashov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #9 Travis Dermott
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #10 Nikita Soshnikov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #11 Jeremy Bracco
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #12 Brendan Leipsic
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #13 Zach Hyman
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #14 Carl Grundstrom
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #15 Andrew Nielsen
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #16 Tobias Lindberg
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #17 Yegor Korshkov
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #18 Adam Brooks
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #19 Kasimir Kaskisuo
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: #20 Garret Sparks
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: 10 players who received no votes from us
- TLN Top 20 Prospects 2016: Honourable Mentions