A lot has been said and a lot of questions have been asked about the lucrative 5 year, $58 million contract extension that Matthews signed this past off-season. Is he worth it? Why are the Maple Leafs paying him $11.6 million per season? Is he really a great player? Can he play both ends of the rink? Is he the future leader of this franchise?
Matthews has dealt with some criticism throughout the season, especially since his so called “scandal” was released. However he has come out of the gate scoring at an alarming pace with 9 goals in his first 13 games. AND as much as has been said about his defensive play in the past three to four games, Matthews has a +4 rating on the season. There is also chatter about Matthews being poor in the faceoff circle… however, I come to you with some interesting stats that have Matthews at a 56.74% faceoff winning percentage. That puts him in the top 20 in faceoff percentage for players that have taken more than 50 draws. He also has 9 takeaways on the year… putting him in the top 25 in that category. Sure, he isn’t extremely physical for a player standing at 6’3”. However, he seems to save his energy for his offensive abilities, rather than play an extremely physical game, as that is more taxing on the body.
Going into more of the “in-depth” advanced analytics of the game, and you’ll find Matthews is really standing out. When Auston Matthews is on the ice in a 5-on-5 situation, the Maple Leafs control 59.23% of the shots. Diving even deeper… when Matthews is on the ice, his team has accumulated 200 shots for… this LEADS ALL FORWARDS in this category by 8 shot attempts. (Nylander is second with 192, Sidney Crosby is third with 187)
Note for reference: A Primary Point is one in which a player either scores the goal or is the primary assist on the play.
Not Connor McDavid, not Nikita Kucherov, not Sidney Crosby, but Auston Matthews has leads the NHL in 5-on-5 primary points per 60 minutes of ice-time since the beginning of the 2017 season. Matthews averages 2.49 even-strength, primary points per 60 minutes of ice. Connor McDavid, second in the league, averages 2.42 and Nikita Kucherov, third in the league, averages 2.29.
Matthews is also the most dangerous even-strength goal scorer in the league. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, Matthews has an average 1.67 even-strength goals per 60 minutes. Who is second? Alex Ovechkin, with just 1.44 even-strength goals per 60 minutes… let that sink in for a minute. Sure, Ovechkin scores a lot of goals from his left side circle on the power-play. However, Ovechkin could go down as the most prolific goal scorer of ALL-TIME… better than ‘The Great One’. Matthews has him beat… at least 5-on-5.
In my own opinion and by the stats that back me up… Auston Matthews is the most dangerous offensive 5-on-5 threat in the entire NHL. He controls the play, scores goals and sets up his line-mates better than any other player at 5-on-5. He also has a heck of a shot on the power-play. He plays his own end of the ice good enough for his age, and will only get better in this aspect and before Tavares went down to injury… Matthews never had any question marks regarding his defensive abilities.
Both his numbers in even-strength play are absolutely ridiculous. There is a reason why experts have Matthews in talks as a top ten player in the NHL. Sometimes you just need a reminder of how good this kid really plays. So when your Leaf Brain starts to ask,” why are the Toronto Maple Leafs paying Auston Matthews $58 million over the next 5 seasons?”... you know where to go to ensure yourself relief.