Pierre McGuire shook the hockey world (at least my twitter feed) Thursday night when he said Auston Matthews has been the second best player in the NHL this season, behind only Sidney Crosby. He followed up that remark with “I think Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are battling it out for two and three [of best players in the NHL].” James Duthie wasn’t so bold, but mentioned he doesn’t believe McDavid is “on this platform that’s so far above Auston Matthews anymore,” provided the Leafs rookie continues to play at his high calibre.
You don’t have to tell Leafs fans that Matthews has been unbelievable this season. He has surpassed all expectations and has no doubt been the team’s MVP thus far, but comparing a 19-year-old, Maple Leafs rookie to some of the best players on the planet may have not even been on the minds of Toronto fans.
First off, let me say that Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid are in a tier of their own. Matthews has been unbelievable this year – and it is not totally outlandish for Pierre to make such statements – but he is not on the same level as those two players. Comparing the two teenagers like Pierre did would be unfair, but hey, let’s do it anyways.
Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, who has been better this year?
This comparison shows that while Matthews has been incredible, McDavid has been better.
Connor is more effective at producing scoring chances and driving possession, which are both vital metrics when comparing offensive centremen. Stats aside, an eye test proves McDavid is the NHL’s most dominant player when he’s on his game … and he’s in just his second year.
However, Matthews has arguably been the better shot producer and goal scorer. He is 11th in the league in shots and tied for third in goals, while Mcdavid is 14th and t-31st, respectively. Auston has also shown amazing defensive abilities for a rookie, possibly the the one category where he is clearly the more effective player. Of the two, Matthews has been better at limiting shots against, a rare skill for a rookie. The freshman has done all this in five fewer games as well.
Maybe it was Matthews’ signature moments in the spotlight that really caught McGuire’s eye. It could’ve been his four-goal NHL debut, OT winner at Centennial Classic, or some other highlight that inspired Pierre to remark “every game, [Matthews] does something that gets my out of my seat.”
It’s exhilarating to have such a talent proving that #theleafsareactuallygood, especially one in the conversation of the NHL’s second best player this year, but cool your jets there, Pierre. Matthews isn’t as good as McDavid (yet), but we’re excited that there are two incredible players that are going to be a lot of fun to watch for years to come.