The first two picks of the 2016 NHL Draft have made immediate impacts for their respective teams. Centreman Auston Matthews looks poised beyond his years as his responsible two-way game has the Leafs in a playoff position. Right Winger Patrik Laine’s offensive ability has the Finnish super-rookie contending for the Maurice Rocket Richard trophy, as he trails only Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals.
Year of the Rookies
Both players headline an impressive rookie class for the 2016-2017 NHL season. Patrik Laine leads all NHL Rookies in Goals, Points, Points/Game and Powerplay Goals despite missing 8 games earlier this season due to a concussion. Meanwhile, Matthews leads the way, among first-year players, in Game Winning Goals and Shots. Their season stat lines are as follows:
Matthews: 60 GP, 28 G, 24 A, 52 PTS, +3, 4 PPG, 16 PPP, 6 GWG, 210 Shots, 17:47 TOI/Game
Laine: 55 GP, 30 G, 24 A, 54 PTS, +9, 8 PPG, 12 PPP, 5 GWG, 151 Shots, 18:10 TOI/Game
- Laine is scoring just below a Point-Per-Game clip (0.98) with an incredibly high 19.9 Shooting Percentage. It’s assumed we can expect this number to decrease over the course of his last 19 games. As a result, this allows Matthews an opportunity to match Laine’s Point/Game clip by season’s end.
- Matthews has demonstrated excellence on both sides of the puck so far this season. Mike Babcock, head coach of the Maple Leafs, has marveled at Matthews’ attention to detail in the defensive zone. Additionally, the American has been a force offensively for the blue-and-white, depicted by his brilliant numbers above.
- Both Winnipeg and Toronto find themselves in the heat of competitive playoff races. Expect both Canadian teams to rely heavily on their superstars during the final two months of the season.
- 32 of Matthews’ 52 points have come on the road, which is contrary to the norm for NHL Rookies. Auston enjoys success playing against (presumably) tougher matchups; a characteristic often shared by the game’s greats.
- 18 of Laine’s 30 Goals have come in the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. 7 of these markers have come on the Powerplay, making him the bigger Powerplay threat of the two.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets completed their two-game season series on Tuesday night. Both games turned into Overtime thrillers, with each team taking one game-a-piece. The two rookies didn’t disappoint in their efforts, each putting on a show in both games:
Matthews: 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS, -1, 8 SOG, 18:18 TOI/Game
Laine: 5 G, 0 A, 5 PTS, +2, 7 SOG, 18:02 TOI/Game
- Both games produced 5-4 (OT) finals, meaning each team scored 9 goals in their season series. Laine and Matthews were directly involved in half of the total goals within the two games, signifying how dominant their offensive outputs are.
- Patrik Laine:
- Recorded his first of three NHL Hat-Tricks in his first meeting with Matthews. His Hat-Trick goal served as the OT Winner after Matthews had a breakaway of his own just seconds prior.
- Had another multi-goal game against the Leafs on Tuesday night. His first goal tied the game up in the first period and his second-period marker was a go-ahead goal for the Jets. Clutch.
- Auston Matthews:
- Recorded his first career NHL Assist on a goal by William Nylander in the October edition of Jets vs. Leafs. In such a highly-anticipated match-up, each Rookie created many scoring opportunities for their squads. Number 34 had 1 assist on the night.
- Had his creativity and vision on full display in version 2 of the match-up. Matthews recorded 3 assists, including an apple on Jake Gardiner’s OT winner half-way through the frame.
Laine and Matthews have had tremendous starts to their NHL careers. Within their first year of play, they have demonstrated skills and qualities that are usually found in grizzled NHL veterans. It’s amazing to believe both aren’t even 20 years-old and yet, have set the league on fire with their offensive outputs.
Patrik Laine could very well be on his way to scoring the Rocket Richard Trophy by season’s end, as he only trails Sidney Crosby by 3 goals with 19 games to go. However, that may not mean he is a lock for the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Top Rookie. Look for Matthews’ drive and ultra-competitiveness to become even more apparent during the final 20 games of the season; he wants that Calder!
Beyond this season, we can expect both players to break team and league records for years to come. What a time to be a Leafs, Jets and hockey fan!