For this part of the Year in Review series, it is time to discuss the face of the franchise: Auston Matthews. After spending countless hours pouring over every detail of his game, it is important to take a step back every once in a while to see the big picture.
Below, you’ll find a general summary of his stats this season:
|GP||Goals||Assists||Points||CF% (5v5)||xGF% (5v5)|
Auston Matthews finished 2nd in Leafs scoring with 63 points, which was six fewer than Marner and two more than Nylander. Unfortunately, Matthews fell short of repeating his 40-goal rookie season because three injuries forced him to miss a total of 20 games.
In terms of shot-share, the Leafs basically broke even at 5v5 with Matthews on the ice, controlling 49.97% of the shots. That is not exactly what you would expect from a superstar, although adjusting for factors outside the Leafs control bumps it up to 50.78%, which is fine.
The table above also tells us that the Leafs were expected to score 52.96% of the goals while Matthews was on the ice at 5v5. He finished 8th overall amongst regular Leafs skaters in this category. Again, that’s pretty good but not special enough to make you say “Wow” like Owen Wilson.
I was really tempted to give him an A+ here, mostly because he put up spectacular point totals over his 62-game season. His 0.55 goals per game was better than everyone not named Alex Ovechkin. Every player who scored at least 30 goals at even-strength played in at least 80 games, while Matthews needed only 62 games to score 29 even-strength goals. You can’t get much better than that.
However, I couldn’t give Matthews an A+ because he led all regular skaters in PDO this season. Unless we believe that the things Matthews does well result in a 106.93 PDO, we must admit that he was somewhat lucky this season. To express this argument differently, consider this: the Leafs were expected to score 53% of the goals in those minutes, far lower than the 67% they actually scored. A discrepancy of this magnitude means we must acknowledge that, to a certain extent, luck played a role in the Leafs performance with Matthews at 5v5. Fortunately, if your team sustainably scores 53% of the goals while you’re on the ice, you are obviously a good player. Hence, I felt that an “A” grade was the most appropriate for Matthews this season.
Auston Matthews was only 19 when he hit em with the four. https://t.co/NctIE6RRYq
— Ziggy (@Ziggy_14) December 23, 2017
The face of the franchise: Auston Matthews. pic.twitter.com/Z3MixGNojV
— Ziggy (@Ziggy_14) April 21, 2018
There were so many to choose from, but the one that stands out most to me came during a January game against Colorado. Auston Matthews had scored to give the Leafs the lead, but his goal was disallowed due to goalie interference. On his very next shift, he scored again — legally, this time — and he made sure everyone knew it:
Looking ahead to next season, there are a few things to keep an eye on. First and foremost is his contract extension, which he could sign as early as July 1st. The contract won’t kick in until the 2019-2020 season, however his cap hit will determine the Leafs cap situation during his prime years. Judging from McDavid’s and Eichel’s contracts, expect it to fall somewhere between $12.5 million and $10 million per year.
Once the 2018-19 season begins, pay attention to Matthews performance against elite competition. He struggled in the shot-department while facing the other teams superstars throughout his first two seasons. The Leafs need Matthews to improve in this area going forward.
As I touched on earlier, I expect Matthews’ PDO to decrease next season, but I’d be shocked if it fell below 100. Fortunately, Matthews can make up for any lost production in a few ways. Not only will his skill improve as he approaches his prime, but he will also produce more on the powerplay if JVR signs with another team on July 1st.
Ultimately, the next time we see Matthews he will be older, stronger, better at hockey, and destined to cash in on a massive contract. And if we’re lucky, he might have a “C” on his chest.