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Behind The Numbers

Impact of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine

Maple Leafs center has edge on Jets forward entering last head-to-head matchup

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets play at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TSN4, TSN3, NHL.TV), the final regular-season game between the teams.

It will be the last head-to-head matchup between rookies Auston Matthews of Toronto and Patrik Laine of Winnipeg, who were chosen No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Laine is leading the rookie scoring race with 52 points (28 goals, 24 assists) in 54 games. Matthews is second with 49 points (28 goals, 21 assists) in 58 games.

Although they are neck-and-neck in terms of traditional statistics such as goals and assists, the underlying numbers suggest Matthews might be having the greater impact on his team.

Video: Lindsay, Smith preview the Matthews-Laine matchup

A glance at the standings suggests this: Toronto has improved from a point percentage of .421 in 2015-16 to .560 this season; that works out to an extra 23 points over 82 games. Various statistical models peg their chances of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time since 2003-04 at between 42 and 64 percent.

In contrast, Winnipeg's point percentage has improved from .476 to .492, which works out to three extra points in the standings over 82 games and lifts their chances of qualifying for the postseason for the third time in franchise history to between 12 and 23 percent. So it's easy to be skeptical of Laine's total impact on the Jets' fortunes regardless of his impressive scoring totals.

Of course, Matthews doesn't deserve all the credit for Toronto's improvement, given that he is one of eight rookies in the lineup. Players like forwards Mitchell Marner (out with an injury Tuesday) and William Nylander, and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev have each made comparable contributions to their success this season, not to mention the offseason trade acquisition Frederik Andersen, who has been in goal for 23 of Toronto's 27 wins. Even if credit is spread out fairly evenly, Matthews likely is responsible for at least three or four points of the Maple Leafs' overall improvement in the standings.

Video: TOR@CAR: Matthews pots fantastic goal while falling

Although not as productive as the Maple Leafs in terms of rookie talent, the Jets have more than one developing player in their lineup. Connor Hellebuyck, 23, has taken over as the No. 1 goalie, rookie Josh Morrissey, 21, and Jacob Trouba, 22, have made an impact on defense, and Laine is joined on the top line by Nikolaj Ehlers, 21, and breakout sensation Mark Scheifele, 23. Despite this enviable collection of young talent, Winnipeg has barely budged in the standings.

Offensively, Laine certainly is doing his job. The Jets have improved from 2.59 goals per game in 2015-16, which ranked 20th, to 2.87 this season, which ranks ninth. Prorated over an 82-game season, that works out to 23 extra goals.

Some of that extra scoring has come on the power play, where Laine's 12 points have helped Winnipeg's percentage improve from a League-worst 14.8 percent last season to 17.5 percent this season, which ranks 19th.

However, the extra scoring may have come at a cost. Defensively, the Jets have allowed 3.11 goals per game, which ranks 27th. That's up from 2.88 goals per game in 2015-16, which ranked 22nd. That wipes out the entire 23-goal improvement.

Video: WPG@PIT: Laine buries Perreault's nice feed

In terms of shot-based metrics, the Jets are being outshot 2,586-2,560 at even strength this season, for an SAT of minus-26 that ranks 19th in the NHL. That's down from plus-191 in 2015-16, which ranked 16th.

Laine, who has an SAT of minus-49, fifth-lowest on the Jets, should shoulder some of the blame for that step backwards. Despite the advantage of a 55.15 zone start percentage, which ranks second on the Jets, he has left the team in a hole that negates some of his offensive contributions.

That's not the case in Toronto, which has made even greater offensive improvements than Winnipeg, and without allowing more goals or adversely affecting the team's shot-based metrics. In his individual case, Matthews has an SAT of plus-84 that ranks third on the Maple Leafs and seventh among NHL rookies.

Even though the two are virtually even in the rookie scoring race, Matthews' overall game and chemistry with the Maple Leafs' other developing players has helped him have a greater impact for Toronto than Laine has had for Winnipeg.

Video: Patrik Laine on recent scoring surge, rookie campaign

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