Looking back at the start of the 2016-17 season, it feels as if the whole world had caught the Auston Matthews bug. Aside from the insane amount of hype surrounding the first overall pick of the 2016 Entry Draft, Matthews’ four-goal debut game simply left the league awestruck.
Many forgot about Toronto’s other incredible rookie: 2015 first-round pick Mitch Marner.
The pure talent that Matthews brought to the league practically guaranteed him a spot on the team. On the other hand, Marner’s roster spot was never exactly a sure thing.
Regardless, we are a little over the halfway mark, and the two young rookies have about the same amount of points. Marner has 41 and Matthews has 39.
Fan fair and hoopla aside, who’s been more vital to the Leafs’ first half success?
Who’s contributed more?
Who’s points are more important?
Mitch Marner was drafted fourth overall by the Leafs in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Unlike Matthews, he did not play in the NHL his draft year. Instead, Marner spent last season with the London Knights of the OHL.
He was a pure beast with the Knights, tallying 116 regular season points last year. He would add another 44 points in the playoffs and went on to win the Memorial Cup (alongside former Knights teammate and Calgary Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk).
At 6’0” 170 pounds, Marner is not exactly the biggest guy on the ice. He isn’t able to dominate the play with his size alone. Instead, Marner plays the game with incredible foresight and speed.
Accordingly, Marner is a consummate playmaker.
A quick glance at his stat line and you’ll see he’s not much of a shooter. With little over a hundred goals on the season he’s scoring at a rate below 10 percent.
Before you make your mind up about the kid, consider that he is currently playing on the Leafs’ top line. He’s going up against the League’s best. With 39 points, he’s quickly carving out a place among the NHL’s top tier.
Though he may not be as dangerous of a shot as Matthews, he is most certainly dangerous on the power play. Marner has tallied 14 power play points this year so far, third most by a Leaf this season. With four game-winning goals, you can’t say he’s not clutch.
If nothing else, his coach loves him. Head coach Mike Babcock has said, “I’ve never coached a kid that good that young.”
Auston Matthews was drafted first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Matthews entered the year with more fan fair than you could shake a stick at. I believe the technical term here is a ton.
After scoring four goals in his first game, it quickly became clear why the hockey world was so hyped on him. The young Scottsdale, Arizona native has been the Calder favorite since he first stepped foot on NHL ice.
He’s proved himself to be one of the most dangerous players in the league when he gets the puck on his stick. With 163 shots on goal so far this season, Matthews is eighth in the League in shots; more than any other Leaf.
With a shooting percentage of 14.1, Matthews had managed 23 goals on the season. He is tied for sixth in the league; only five behind the league lead currently held by Sidney Crosby (28).
Like Marner, the young Matthews is calm under pressure. He has five game-winning goals so far this season, one of those being in overtime.
The great equalizer here is that Matthews has not been playing on the top line as much as Marner.
It’s an old coaches secret (not really a secret) to stager talent throughout the lineup. That’s what those sportscasters are talking about when they speak of depth. Babcock certainly has the young talent at his disposal to give the Leafs the depth they’ve so sorely lacked in the past. Matthews has flourished under Babcock’s system so far, taking full advantage of the mismatched pairings when he’s out there and making every shift count.
If player ‘A’ scores 41 points on the first line and player ‘B’ scores 39 points on the third line, whose contributions to the team have been greater?
Now this is the part where half of you praise me and the other half hate me.
Mitch Marner’s 41 points are more important than Matthews’. Marner’s play has been more vital to the Maple Leafs’ success. Marner has contributed more.
- He’s playing against other team’s top-lines, Matthews not so much
To answer the question posed, player ‘A’ has contributed more. It’s simply harder to be the top line guy.
- Playmakers are more important than goal scorers
Goal scorers will come and go, very few remain pure scorers for life. It remains well within the realm of possibilities that the League will catch up to Matthews. Right now he’s the new guy, but it won’t take long for teams to catch on and shut him down.
- Babcock is not the only one to praise his work ethic, London Knight’s head coach Dale Hunter has sung Marner’s praises since before you even knew who he was.
Marner’s talent doesn’t just ooze out his pores, he pushes it out. The guy works twice as hard as anyone on the ice and he’s been able to turn his small size into an asset instead of a detriment.
- With Marner, you get more bang for your buck.
Recall Auston Matthews’ ridiculous entry level contract; maxing out all possible bonuses. Nobody is saying that Marner ain’t getting paid. Just that he’s getting paid a lot less to do it.
So there you have it. Mitch Marner’s contributions are more important than Matthews’.
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