Auston Matthews. Papi. The next, next one. The ‘guy you wouldn’t trade for Connor McDavid‘
Whatever you call him, we can all agree on one thing: Auston Matthews is going to be one of the biggest names in the NHL for years to come.
We all knew he was going to be special, but I don’t think we knew he was going to be this special, this fast. Matthews has been described as a “high-octane dynamo who thrives under the microscope… a generational talent.” Nothing we saw in his first NHL season suggests otherwise.
Along with shattering a number of Leafs rookie records, Matthews’ 40 (!!) goals rank him amongst the elite in terms of all-time rookie goal scoring. Also, he slotted in beside two other super-rookies, who also broke a number of records as a trio.
Really, Matthews’ rookie campaign really couldn’t have gone any better. Let’s take a look back at the year that was.
OK, OK. I know this isn’t a strength per se, but what’s a Matthews year in review without this historic performance?
Although, that quote about Matthews being able to thrive under pressure… Well, a four-goal game, the first time in the modern era that a player has done that in his debut, is pretty solid confirmation of that claim. As the season went on and the pressure mounted, Matthews rose to each and every occasion.
When he went through two separate scoring slumps, he broke out of them in huge ways. When the playoffs came, he scored four goals (five points) in six games. Playing in a market like Toronto clearly wasn’t an issue.
Also, Matthews’ overall ability to drive play at an elite level was extremely encouraging. Just take a look at how the Leafs attacked when he was on the ice:
Also, I know we love to talk about shooting percentage, and that Matthews’ 14.3% conversion rate would usually raise some red flags. However, when taking a deeper look, it becomes clear that this wasn’t a fluke, and that numbers like this are most definitely repeatable for Matthews.
Why? Well, this is where Matthews took his shots from this season:
And then you remember that he had a shot in every single game, both regular season and playoffs, this season. And THEN you remember that he was eighth in the NHL in shots this season with 279. Yeah, I’m not worried about his shooting percentage.
Another one of Matthews’ strengths was scoring at an absurd rate while playing lots of minutes with two players who, while useful, should not be playing on the first line.
There were multiple times this season in which it looked like Matthews was dragging around Connor Brown and Zach Hyman similar to the way Phil Kessel used to drag around Tyler Bozak. Yes, William Nylander played more minutes on AM’s wing than Brown, but 400 minutes of Brown is not insignificant.
None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Honestly.
Who knows how well he can sing? He chased Ben Smith from the bench! Not good!
Sometimes I don’t think Leafs fans understand how lucky they are to have a player like this on their team. Matthews is a generational talent and will likely go down, if all goes to plan, and the greatest Leaf of all time. For these types of players, the sky truly is the limit.
For these types of players, the sky truly is the limit. What’s to say he can’t hit 50 goals? What about 60, is that out of the question? While a crazy number like that is unlikely, there’s nothing he’s shown us up to this point that he’s not equal to the task.
It will be interesting to see who Matthews spends the majority of his time with this coming season. We know how well he worked with Nylander, but we also know that the Leafs have long term plans of moving him to centre. Do they experiment with that this season? I doubt it, but something to think about nonetheless.
Auston Matthews plays on the most popular team in the NHL, in its largest market, and has massive appeal in the United States. He’s on track to be one of the biggest and brightest stars this game has ever seen. Let’s enjoy the ride.