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Comparison: Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine

Maple Leafs center, Jets forward display professionalism in tough times

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Center Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and forward Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets have certainly proven their maturity in what might be considered times of frustration as NHL rookies.

Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, recently ended a streak of 13 straight games without a goal after scoring six in his first six games. Matthews has three goals and four points in his past two games. 

Laine, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft, has scored once in the past nine games, but remains steadfast in his approach.

Matthews continues to be among the Maple Leafs leaders when it comes to advanced analytics. He's top-three on Toronto in shot attempts (SAT) with a plus-41, shot attempts relative percentage (5.9) and faceoff winning percentage (48.4) for players with at least 100 attempts.

Video: TOR@NJD: Matthews roofs his second goal of the game

"[Even when I wasn't scoring], I was still creating chances, still out there playing and I feel like every game there's little things that kind of go unseen that I think I'm improving on," Matthews said. "So you just got to keep working at it, got to keep having fun."

Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello was never concerned.

"We're extremely pleased [with Matthews]," Lamoriello told the Toronto Sun. "I don't like comparing people to other people, but there are a lot of exceptional players who go through [scoring slumps]. I've had 500-goal scorers who have gone through it. But in Auston's case, he's been playing excellent defensively and had excellent progressive success on the systematic part of the game and on faceoffs. Remember, he's up against the best and had the best playing against him."

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock used video footage of Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings to help bring out the best in the 19-year-old.

"It's good in life to go through some tough times, it just depends on how you handle it and how hard you battle to get through it and when you come through the other side, you're better for it so it's a challenge for him," Babcock said. "He just has to keep grinding and keep getting better defensively, have the puck more, and get better in the faceoff circle. He needs to be a guy who can play in all situations."

Babcock was asked if Matthews is one of the most mature teenage players he's ever coached.

"I coached a lot of great players over the years but he's a player with huge upside, he has a confidence about him," Babcock said. "But it doesn't matter who you are. When things don't go right and you experience momentary doubt, you need to just push through it and it's always brighter on the other side."

Despite the recent slide, Laine remains tied for second in the League with 12 goals in 24 games. He scored 17 goals in 46 games playing for Tappara in Liiga, Finland's top league, in 2015-16.

Video: DAL@WPG: Laine scores on snap shot to notch hat trick

"You have to simplify your game when you're in a rut, that's the biggest thing," Jets center Mark Scheifele said. "This League is so tough that when you're pressing and trying to do too much, you're going to get caught and get in trouble. So my advice to any young player struggling for offense would be to keep it simple and do the simple plays over and over, be consistent and good things will happen."

The adjustment to the NHL hasn't come easy for Laine, but he is learning on the fly and realizes how well he plays in his defensive end is as important as the offensive side.

"The adjustments we've asked him to make about the defensive structures of the League and of our team, he's adhered to those," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "He understands that there's more to what he'll do for our team than scoring goals. We love the goals, and I like Patrik thinking he should shoot the puck more, but this guy is a top-six player at 18, which means he's playing against top-four, top-two sets of defense on that line and the margin for error and what you give up against top lines is dangerous.

"Those are all things that young players or amateur players don't spend a lot of time thinking about, so there's a lot to kind of cram in."

Laine is minus-7.0 Relative SAT; the Jets are responsible for 44.07 percent of all shot attempts when he's on the ice, and over 50 percent when he's not. By contrast, the Maple Leafs control 53.45 percent of all shots when Matthews is on the ice. Matthews is tied for fifth in the League with 77 shots on goal; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns leads the League with 91.

 

Head to Head comparison 

(Games through Nov. 27)

Matthews

Games: 21

G-A-Pts: 9-8-17

Shots on goal: 77

Avg. ice time: 17:20

Hits: 3

*Goals created per game: 0.34

SAT: plus-41

Points per 60 minutes (all situations): 2.80

 

Laine

Games: 24

G-A-Pts: 12-6-18

Shots on goal: 61

Avg. ice time: 18:24

Hits: 24

*Goals created per game: 0.36

SAT: minus-73

Points per 60 minutes (all situations): 2.54

*- information courtesy Hockey-reference.com

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