Auston Matthews v. Patrik Laine: Who Comes Out on Top Going Forward?
This could easily be a top debate over the next couple of seasons.
Auston Matthews may have taken the “official” top rookie of the year, beating out Patrik Laine for the Calder Memorial Trophy, that boasts names such as Mario Lemieux, Martin Brodeur, Patrick Kane, and Aaron Ekblad. However, with their rookie seasons behind them, it’s a fresh start for both Matthews and Patrik Laine.
If we were to go purely based off scoring-stats from the 2016-2017 season, it would have appeared that Laine took the “unofficial” top rookie of the year award with him, playing nine more games, and claiming five more points than Matthews in their rookie campaign. Matthews, though, had a better shooting percentage and also a better plus-minus record throughout the season.
|PLAYER||GAMES PLAYED||GOALS||ASSISTS||POINTS||+/-||SHOOTING %|
|Patrik Laine (WPG)||73||36||28||64||7||17.6%|
|Auston Matthews (TOR)||82||40||29||69||2||14.3%|
But, when looking at which player led his team to higher heights, Matthews has to be the ultimate winner. While the Toronto Maple Leafs were not able to surpass the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they still had a chance at the Cup. However, the Winnipeg Jets barely went over .500 for the season.
Comparing the Teams
The Maple Leafs had a much bigger overall improvement as a team. Compared to the 2015-16 campaign, where they were the last place team in the entire NHL (29-42-11 / 69 P), they came back to place fourth in the Atlantic Division (40-27-15 / 95 P).
The Jets went from the last place in the Central Division (35-39-8 / 78 P), in which they came in fifth (40-35-7 / 87 P).
Personal Note: if you’d like to see an article by me on a former site that I wrote for, called DiMoro Sports, I compared these two players in the middle of their rookie season. You can read the article here.
Matthews was a for-sure No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016, similar to Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid. These players were just so dominant, and the team who had the first draft pick would’ve been silly not to grab such a valuable player for their team. And so far, those three draft picks have worked out wonderfully for their respective teams. Now we wait to see if Nico Hischier can do that for the New Jersey Devils soon.
Matthews was able to bring the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs new life, as he first showed that in his NHL debut, coming out with a four-goal performance against the Ottawa Senators. He was the first player to do so in modern NHL history (Joe Malone and Harry Hyland both scored five in the first ever NHL game).
His season was still fantastic season afterwards, bringing the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, in which they lost to the Boston Bruins. Auston Matthews played all six games of the short playoff run, scoring four goals, and added an assist. He was a key factor in the limited success they had in the playoffs, against Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals.
To cap off a wonderful season, Matthews claimed 164 of the total 167 first-place votes for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Matthews has a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season, with other young stars, such as Mitch Marner and William Nylander, who could be part of a strong Toronto Maple Leafs squad in upcoming seasons, if the players progress like they should.
While it was certain that the Maple Leafs would take Auston Matthews first overall, the fight was now for the second overall pick, which was held by the Winnipeg Jets. Laine had stiff competition in Pierre-Luc Dubois and Matthew Tkachuk. The rebuilding Winnipeg team, believed he had what they needed and drafted him second in the 2016 draft.
Matthews might have been able to prove his worth in his NHL debut with four goals, but Laine was able to spread the wealth before he got a concussion, causing him to miss eight games. He had three hat tricks in the season (October 19, November 8, and February 14). He even broke the franchise record for the most single-season rookie goals with 29 on February 21.
One of his hat tricks even came against his rookie counterpart, Auston Matthews, and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the October 19th game. The Winnipeg Jets ended up winning the game in a 5-4 overtime thriller, with Laine’s goal being the game-winner.
The Jets showed improvement, moving up in the Central Division after coming in last place just a year before. However, they were not able to make the playoffs, which in hindsight could have been instrumental in Laine having a better chance to win the Calder Memorial Trophy. He received the received three votes for first place but won second place in a dominating fashion with 134-votes.
The Winnipeg Jets path of trajectory could possibly move them up the ladder in the Central Division this year, and maybe even head to the playoffs, the first time since 2015.
However, Laine and the Jets might have to wait until the 2017 first-round pick Kristian Vesalainen, who is still playing with HPK in the Finnish League, joins them. Vesalainen is known as a great goal scorer and dynamic player; someone who could really help Laine and Winnipeg in the upcoming seasons in their quest to build a dominating team.
Who Has the Better Second Season?
If we based it purely on stats from the rookie campaign, Patrik Laine would continue the hot streak and overtake Matthews for the award. But, if we look at team improvement and overall team chemistry, Auston Matthews has the trophy in the palm of his hand. So, who do we think will take the “Second Year Calder Memorial Trophy”?
And the winner is…
Laine might have been at a loss with nine less games than Matthews, which could’ve possibly been the difference with those five points, but it isn’t always about points during the season as we learn. It’s about the team chemistry as well. With a lot more team improvement from what can be assumed Matthew’s leadership and play style, he and the Leafs can only go up from here.
Nonetheless, both second-year players are outstanding on and off the ice; but Auston Matthews just has the better edge on Laine, and we can only wait to see Matthews carry the Stanley Cup above his head very soon.