5 questions for Auston Matthews this season

Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Shane Seney
6 months ago
More questions than answers. That’s been the way for the Toronto Maple Leafs for quite some time. Could the 2023-24 season be the year the Leafs finally make all of our dreams come true? Then, maybe we can change the goal song?
To kill time between now and the start of the season, we’re going to start a new series taking a look at questions for Maple Leafs players.
It makes sense to start with Auston Matthews. ‘The Franchise’ to some, ‘Tone’ or ‘Matts’ to others. Or, if you’re the opposing team, nothing more than a problem. Here are five questions for #34 of the Maple Leafs:

Are 65 goals within reach?

Matthews’ career-high of 60 goals came two seasons ago, and heading into the ’23-24 season it feels like all the stars are aligning for another year of feeling like he’s going to score every time he gets the puck on his stick. Adding Tyler Bertuzzi is going to be a huge jolt to the top line. Matthews and Mitch Marner haven’t played a ton with a player as gifted as Bertuzzi, who sees the ice so well and is very unselfish. The trio is going to put up some serious numbers which makes me think 65 goals is within reach. I also wonder how many he can pot shorthanded, which wasn’t an option back when he scored 60.

How much will he play shorthanded?

Speaking of killing penalties, Matthews is very pumped to be able to contribute to all elements of the game. Considering how defensively sound he is, it’s borderline surprising it took this long for him to get a look on the penalty kill. It will be interesting to see how much coach Keefe trusts him early on this season and how things go. Matthews will likely play second fiddle to David Kampf and could see roughly 1:30 minutes of shorthanded ice time a night.

Is another Hart trophy on the horizon?

No contract distractions, an upgraded line, and completely healthy – if Matthews can get hot in October and come out guns-a-blazin’, this could be another banner season for #34. Yes, Connor McDavid might have another unworldly year and not even be within reach of anyone, but if he doesn’t, Matthews is going to be in the conversation for the season’s most valuable player. The Leafs’ power play could put up some big numbers, and if you add that to Matthews’ five-on-five production potentially improving with Bertuzzi joining, and with even more focus on the defensive side of the puck, big things are possible in ’23-24.

How else has his game evolved?

Matthews trains very hard in the offseason and it will be fun to watch if anything new has made its way to his bag of tricks. Getting better in the faceoff circle? The Maple Leafs’ centre was 52.4% at the dot last season, meanwhile, John Tavares was over 56% and ranked in the top 10 of the league. Starting with the puck more never hurts. We’ve seen shot blocking become a thing these past couple of seasons, becoming elite in the faceoff circle could be next. Imagine he gets all the way up to 60%.

Is Matthew Knies his twin?

Watching Knies this preseason it’s very obvious he crafts his game after a lot of the same things Matthews does. Closing speed, stick-checking, composure with the puck. They train a lot together so it does make some sense, plus the obvious comparison is the fact they are both 6-foot-3 and built like trucks. Unfortunately, the way the lines are shaping up, it doesn’t look like they’ll play much together.
There we have it folks, the first installment of five questions, with Matthews batting lead-off. He showed some power at the plate recently so it felt appropriate.

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