Matthew Knies is right, Auston Matthews is ‘kind of the best overall player in the league’
Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney14 days ago
Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Matthew Knies thinks Auston Matthews may be the best overall player in the NHL and you know what? Knies may have hit a BINGO! The young Leafs forward spoke with reporters at the NHL’s rookie showcase on Tuesday and when asked about Matthews, said “pretty damn good. He’s not just the best goal scorer in the NHL but he plays defense too. He’s kind of the best overall player [in the NHL] in my eyes.”
Knies and his 10 games of NHL experience may not get him much credibility for choosing Matthews, but if you take McDavid somewhat out of the picture, because everyone knows he’s the league’s best offensive threat, there’s an argument for Matthews being ‘kind of’ the most complete player in the league.
First off, Knies said best ‘overall player’ in the league. We all know McDavid might post 200 points this season, so let’s just set that to the side for now. We’re talking offense and defense, impacting the game at both ends, being a presence even without the puck. Think of using your body, being in proper positioning, hockey sense and defensive IQ. Not all of this can be quantitively based however there are a few numbers that stand out since Matthews entered the league.
Since the former first-overall pick entered the NHL for the 2016-17 season, he ranks first in most goals scored and in goals scored at five-on-five. So he’s the most consistent sniper in the league who also doesn’t get all his snipes on the man advantage; check.
What about preventing shots? Matthews ranks fourth in blocked shots by forwards since he entered the league, meanwhile there isn’t any superstars among the top-50. So he’s the best superstar shot-blocker; check.
There’s also takeaways. As we’ve seen since day one in Ottawa, Matthews has an uncanny ability to pounce on pucks and pressure opponents before they even realize he’s closed in. Erik Karlsson is still wondering what happened on his second of four goals. What do the numbers say? Since his rookie season he ranks sixth with 477 total takeaways. However to dig a little deeper, if it’s based on average takeaways per game, he ranks second not sixth with 6.9 per game, ranked only behind McDavid who averages 7.0. So Matthews is the second best in the league (.01 behind) at taking the puck away; check.
Random meaningless stat, head-to-head, Matthews has an 11-3-2 record against McDavid. What about staying out of the box? The Oilers superstar averages double the amount of penalty minutes per game than his Maple Leafs counterpart does. It might surprise, some but McDavid has 219 minutes in penalties in 569 career games.
There’s a ton of other avenues we could go down but let’s just leave all of the mentioned nonsense on the table for some food for thought. In my admittedly biased opinion, Matthews is the best overall player in the league. And if he isn’t #1, he’s pretty damn close.
Knies Has a Mentor in Matthews
As we all now know, Knies is a big fan of his teammate and even mentioned how special it was to have #34 assist on his first ever NHL goal last season. The pair have a ton in common and it’s simply a match made in heaven.
The admiration and respect Knies has for the elder Matthews makes all the sense in the world. Matthews is the perfect mentor for the 20-year-old rookie and if you watched Knies in action last season, you saw how similar the two play on the ice. It helps when you’re both 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds.
Both are from Arizona, have very diverse backgrounds and while no one has a similar path to Matthews, who trailblazed his way to the show, he does understand the work Knies has been putting in to make an impact in the league. They spend time together in the offseason and have been training together, at times, to prep for this upcoming season.
Matthews has been waiting for a chance to take someone under his wing and now his mentee could potentially be his left winger to start next season. It will be fun to watch how the Tyler Bertuzzi vs Knies battle goes for the top-line left-wing slot.
Matthews is a natural leader and a great player and person to look up to. It makes a ton of sense that the Leafs superstar even saw a situation like this coming. Back at the 2019 NHL All Star game in San Jose, Matthews was asked about how much impact Patrick Marleau had on his game. After reflecting on his influence on him on and off the ice, he mentioned within his answer “maybe some day I’ll be some sort of Patrick Marleau to somebodies Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.”
That day is now. The mentoring has begun and class is in order. Knies gets to be shown the ropes by ‘kind of’ the best overall player in the league. What a time to be alive for the Maple Leafs’ rookie.
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