The second and final game of the regular season between the top two picks of the 2016 NHL Draft, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine, will take place at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN4, TSN 3, NHL.TV).
Laine capped his first NHL hat trick with the game-winning goal in overtime of the Jets' 5-4 win against the Maple Leafs at MTS Centre on Oct. 19. The Jets rallied from a 4-0 deficit.
Video: TOR@WPG: Laine erupts for first NHL hat trick
"It was a memorable game [for Laine] but again, there's going to be many more matchups," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "I feel for [Laine and Matthews] in a way because the games are going to be hyped since they were the top two picks. But I know they're going to try and do their best to continue to grow because they're both fantastic players who just want to help their team win."
Matthews, 19, and Laine, 18, have been doing that this season, playing big roles.
Laine is first among rookie forwards in ice time at even strength (15:26) and Matthews is third (15:13). Matthews, first on the Maple Leafs with 1.63 Goals Per 60 Minutes, is helped by the way he's used at even strength with a 62.9 offensive zone start percentage. Laine has a 55.3 offensive zone start percentage and is first on the Jets with 1.71 G/60.
"The rookies on our team have a common denominator," Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "They want to be good, they want to be coached, they want to be pushed and they want success. They're going through ups and downs like everybody else but I've been extremely impressed with them collectively and individually. There are none that have not lived up to this and it's nice to see."
Laine has had two more hat tricks this season since that game in Winnipeg four months ago. He's the first rookie with three hat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne (five) and Eric Lindros (three) in 1992-93.
Video: DAL@WPG: Laine nets third career hat trick
Since their first game, Matthews has 24 goals (20 at even strength) a 12.6 shooting percentage, 44 points and six game-winning goals in 55 games. Laine has 24 goals (18 at even strength), a 17.3 shooting percentage, 47 points and four game-winning goals in 50 games.
It's a remarkable comparison considering Matthews has spent the majority of the season at center with rookies Zach Hyman and Connor Brown and is tied for fourth among Toronto forwards with at least 50 faceoffs taken with a 46.5 faceoff winning percentage on 787 draws. Laine has played both wings alongside two different centers in Mark Scheifele, 23, and Bryan Little, 29.
"Laine has a tremendous on- and off-ice relationship with left wing Nikolaj Ehlers; they're young players, come from a European background and have a good understanding of each other so there's good chemistry," Cheveldayoff said. "[Jets coach] Paul Maurice has shifted Laine between Scheifele and Little this season because he can play the right or left side.
"I've seen Laine have an ability to adapt to a lot of different situations. He's respectful but also very demanding on himself. He's a guy who wants the puck on his stick in the last minute or last second of a game and, I think, as a group, players recognize that when it is on his stick something special could happen."
Video: WPG@PIT: Laine buries Perreault's nice feed
Laine, according to hockey-reference.com, has 7.5 Point Shares, which represents the estimated number of points contributed by the player. Matthews has 6.8 Point Shares.
It's apparent each player has been placed in situations to succeed as teenagers.
"I feel [Maple Leafs coach] Mike Babcock is the best coach in the game; he's a teacher as well as an X's and O's tactician so it's a combination and he has a good feel of how to handle different players," Lamoriello said.
Cheveldayoff sees in Matthews the same physical and mature attributes he does in Laine.
"You can tell watching him that he played pro (with Zurich in Switzerland) last season; he's smart, moves and skates well," Cheveldayoff said. "It's a fortunate year for Toronto and ourselves to have had the ability to select each of these players. For us, getting the opportunity to select Patrik at No. 2 after winning the NHL Draft Lottery was such a big moment in our franchise."
Matthews and Laine, on pace to become the first rookie teenagers to score 40 goals since Lindros (1992-93), remain two of the top candidates for the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL rookie of the year with less than 25 regular-season games remaining.
Video: TOR@CAR: Matthews pots fantastic goal while falling
Head to Head comparison
(Games through Feb. 19)
Shots on goal: 205
Avg. ice time: 17:44
*Goals created per game: 0.36
Points per 60 minutes (all situations): 2.86
Shots on goal: 149
Avg. ice time: 18:12
*Goals created per game: 0.40
Points per 60 minutes (all situations): 3.18
*- information courtesy Hockey-reference.com