Where Does Auston Matthews’ Offence Rank Amongst The NHL’s Best Scorers?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since October or not following hockey, you’ve heard that Auston Matthews is having an incredible rookie season. Within the first 47 games of his career, the 19-year-old is now representing the Toronto Maple Leafs at the NHL All Star game in Los Angeles. This brief break in the NHL schedule provides us with an opportunity to take a step back from his game-to-game accomplishments, and take a look at how his production this season ranks amongst some of his fellow All Stars. To do this, I have picked three players who most people would consider to be some of the best, if not THE best, players in world. I’ll introduce each players Offensive Production Chart, and then I’ll bring in Matthews’ chart at the end. My goal is to determine if Matthews’ production thus far is comparable to the league’s top offensive threats. 

Connor McDavid:

We’ll start with the player who the Leafs could have drafted, if not for one stubborn lottery ball: Connor McDavid. Although the Leafs won the draft lottery that gave them Auston Matthews, it was incredibly difficult to lose the opportunity to see a lifelong Leafs fan save the franchise. Here’s how McDavid has produced at 5v5 in his first season as Oiler’s captain:

Screenshot 2017-01-27 14.07.00.png

The categories on the chart on pretty self-explanatory. After his rookie season was cut short due to injury, McDavid made up for lost time this year by collecting more points in all situations (59) than any other player in the league before the All Star break. In fact, his 42 assists alone would tie him with Joe Pavelski and Mikael Granlund for 20th overall in league scoring. His remarkable ability to generate goals for his teammates is also exemplified by his primary assist rate at 5v5 — he has earned primary assists more often than every forward with at least 400 TOI except Nino Niederreiter. His 5v5 production alone may not scream “best player in the NHL” right now, but all indicators suggest that he could be there very soon. 

Sidney Crosby:

If there is a human being who is better at hockey than Connor McDavid right now, his name is Sidney Crosby. Fresh off a Stanley Cup victory last June, the Penguins captain has gathered 4 less points than McDavid, albeit in 9 less games. Here is how Crosby has produced at 5v5 so far this season:

Screenshot 2017-01-27 14.16.25.png

Sidney Crosby is approaching the end of his prime, but he’s certainly not slowing down. The only “blemish” on his offensive production in 2016-17, if you could call it that, is the rate at which he shoots the puck at 5v5. His iCF60 of 14.58 ranks 59th out of the 293 forwards in this sample. However, that is still 1st line caliber when you realize that there are 90 top line forwards in the league (30 teams in the league and 3 forwards on each top line). Sidney Crosby is still the best player on the planet.

Alex Ovechkin:

Since bursting onto the scene in 2005-06 by scoring 52 goals and 106 points as a rookie, Alex Ovechkin has been lauded as the best goal scorer in the entire league. Eleven years later, here is how “The Great Eight” has produced so far this season:

Screenshot 2017-01-28 14.10.03.png

The least surprising components of this chart are his shooting and scoring rates; everyone knows he shoots very often and scores a lot, and his numbers prove it. The number that caught my eye is his primary assist rate. Not only is Ovechkin the NHL’s most dangerous scoring threat, but he is one of the best playmakers as well (this season, at least). Perhaps the Capitals captain deserves more praise than he currently receives.

Auston Matthews:

After analyzing the current production of the NHL’s three brightest stars, let’s turn our attention to a fourth. This is how Auston Matthews has produced on offence in his rookie season:

Screenshot 2017-01-27 10.19.05.png

When it comes to scoring goals, Auston Matthews doesn’t need the man-advantage to dominate the league. His scoring rate is second only to Michael Grabner’s 1.76 goals per 60 minutes, with Crosby’s 1.71 not too far behind. Matthews is first in expected scoring and scoring chances. The frequency at which he earns primary points, shots, and shots on goal are all in the top 8 or better. Not bad for a teenager.

The only “weakness” in his offensive game is his playmaking ability. While his primary assist rate is barely above average, that is expected for someone who plays with Zach Hyman and Connor Brown. He might not shine like McDavid does in this area, but his scoring capabilities more than make up for it.

Despite all of this, I believe that it is still too early to declare Auston Matthews as the best player in the world, strictly in terms of offensive production. He might not put up over 100 points as a rookie like Crosby and Ovechkin did over a decade ago, nor is he as flashy as McDavid. But if his current production is any indication, he could definitely be in that conversation for years to come. 

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