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Comparison: Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine

Maple Leafs center has four goals in debut, Jets forward responds with two points

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Center Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs and left wing Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets are determined to duplicate in the NHL the success they experienced overseas leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft. will be there every step of the way, charting their efforts in a bimonthly comparison feature that will run throughout the season.

The transition from the professional leagues in Europe to the NHL has looked seamless so far. Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, played for Zurich in National League A, the top professional league in Switzerland, last season. Laine, the No. 2 pick, played for Tappara of Liiga, the top pro league in Finland.

Each player likely will experience adversity, something that happens to every rookie over the course of an 82-game season.

Video: Auston Matthews makes history in NHL debut

"They have yet to experience the physical grind that accompanies playing in the NHL and the learning curve of finding out exactly what it takes to maintain a consistent NHL level of play," NHL director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "Their NHL debut certainly met expectations and their impressive talent and compete level have them both well placed for NHL success with further development."

Matthews and Laine will play against each other for the first time Wednesday at MTS Centre (8 p.m. ET; SN, NHL.TV). The rematch is Feb. 21 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

The early results of each player have been encouraging.

The Jets control more than 55 percent of all shots attempted when Laine (55.77 SAT%) has been on the ice; he leads the Jets in that enhanced category, which is a good indication of the impact he could have with his playmaking ability.

Matthews leads all rookies with four goals and four points, and the Maple Leafs control 60 percent of all shots attempted (60 SAT%) when he's on the ice.

Matthews had the best NHL debut in the modern era (beginning in 1943-44) when he became the first rookie to score four goals in a 5-4 overtime loss against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Oct. 12. It shouldn't have been that easy, but Matthews no doubt displayed the look of a generational star.

He had instant chemistry on a line with right wing Zach Hyman and left wing William Nylander, scoring four goals on six shots with a plus-3 rating in 17:37.

Video: CAR@WPG: Laine snipes first NHL goal on power play

It took Laine two periods before finding his niche and providing Jets fans a glimpse of the future, scoring a goal and getting an assist with two shots in the third period. He also had two hits in 18:27. Laine's power-play goal off a wrist shot from the left circle 13:33 into the third pulled Winnipeg within 4-3 of an eventual 5-4 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes at MTS Centre on Thursday.

Laine, 18, was asked about Matthews' NHL debut.

"He's playing his game and his career," Laine said. "I don't want to match my game to his. He can score 20 goals in a game, I don't care. It's good for him. I'm just going to help my team to win with my things."

Matthews, 19, became the third-youngest player in NHL history to score four goals behind Bobby Carpenter (1981-82) and Jack Hamilton (1943-44), who each did it at 18.

The most memorable of Matthews' four goals might have been his second at 14:18 of the first to tie the game 2-2. He beat six Senators on the play, and even picked the pocket of Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson along the left-wing boards before beating goalie Craig Anderson to the long side on a low shot from a tough angle.

"He got four scoring chances and he scored four goals. Two of them, most people probably can't do," Karlsson said.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft, had no points, a minus-1 rating and two shots on goal in 18:07 in his NHL debut on Oct. 8, 2015.

"I think in my first game I touched the puck four times, so it was a little bit of a different night for us two in our opening night," McDavid said of Matthews.

Matthews and Laine were the first top two draft picks to have multipoint games in their debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Matthews was held to no points and two shots in 16:51 in a 4-1 win against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

In Winnipeg, Laine started his first game at left wing with center Mathieu Perreault and right wing Kyle Connor. Less than five minutes after scoring his first goal, and with the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, Laine sent a cross-seam pass to Blake Wheeler, who passed to Perreault to tie the game.

Coach Paul Maurice had Laine with center Mark Scheifele and right wing Wheeler in a 4-3 loss at the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau devised a game plan that limited Laine to one shot in 19:39 but he was impressed with Laine's ability, nonetheless.

"I think he was rope-a-doping in preseason and now he's ready to play," Boudreau told the Jets website. "You just can't let him shoot. He's got a world-class shot."

Video: Checking In on social media with NHL Now

Perreault said Laine, who played four preseason games without a point, has been feeling pressure.

"It's so hard in this League to build confidence; you're kind of starting from scratch," Wheeler said. "[Laine] knows what type of player he is, he knows what he's done in the past, but until you do it on this level, you have that little bit of doubt. Once you saw him pop that one in, he took off."

Head to Head comparison

(Games through Oct. 15)


Games: 2

G-A-Pts: 4-0-4

Shots on goal: 8

Avg. ice time: 17:14

Hits: 0

Goals created per game: 1.11

SAT: 11

P/60 (all situations): 6.96


Games: 2

G-A-Pts: 1-1-2

Shots on goal: 3

Avg. ice time: 19:03

Hits: 2

Goals created per game: 0.45

SAT: 6

P/60 (all situations): 3.15

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