Toronto Maple Leafs rookie center Auston Matthews has 32 goals and 56 points while playing one of the most demanding positions on the ice. Winnipeg Jets rookie right wing Patrik Laine has one more goal and four more points in six fewer games.
Laine, 18, the youngest active player in the NHL, has eight power-play goals and five game-winning goals. Matthews, 19, the fourth-youngest in the NHL, has five power-play goals and six game-winners.
Matthews is second in the NHL with 27 even-strength goals. Laine is tied for sixth with 25 even-strength goals.
There are solid cases for Matthews and Laine to be awarded the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. The debate is riveting and, in the end, there may not be a right or wrong answer.
"I'm incredibly curious how it winds up," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "The people in Toronto and Winnipeg each believe their guy should be the Calder Trophy winner. I get to see [Laine] every day and you watch the hands, the number of times he scores, and you're thinking, 'This guy has to be the best kid in the League.' I'm sure Toronto feels that way about Matthews. Two great young players, but we're pulling for our guy."
Matthews and Laine are each closing in on becoming the first rookie teenagers to score 40 goals since Eric Lindros (1992-93).
Video: CHI@TOR: Matthews tips home Nylander's terrific feed
While you contemplate a winner, here's one other story worth telling:
Before Tony Granato was named coach at the University of Wisconsin on March 30, 2016, he served five seasons as assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins and two more as an assistant under Mike Babcock for the Detroit Red Wings.
In 2012-13, Granato helped arrange for his brother, Don, then coach of USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program, a meeting between Matthews and Babcock when he was in Detroit. Babcock is now coach of the Maple Leafs.
"When Matthews first got to Don's camp with the NTDP that year, he called me and said, 'I know you've watched [Crosby] for a long time, but I have another kid that's on the ice here that potentially could be an impact player like Sid in the NHL,'" Tony Granato said. "Auston was 15 years old at the time, so when he mentioned Matthews in the same sentence as Crosby, he got my attention really fast."
Granato believes having Babcock as coach will certainly help expedite Matthews' progression. As for Matthews, he didn't forget that meeting with Babcock, who explained to him that talent alone will never make up for work ethic.
"[Babcock] knew him from watching him back then; we'd go down and watch Don's team play and after Toronto won the NHL Draft Lottery, I'm sure he was excited to have an opportunity to select Matthews," Tony Granato said. "[Babcock] does a great job teaching young players the importance of a lot of things that won't get lost in the shuffle of scoring and those other things. He'll teach him fundamentals of the game that'll help him as he gets older, more mature and gains more experience."
Matthews is third on the Maple Leafs in faceoff wins (449) and has improved his play in the defensive zone. The Maple Leafs control 50.68 percent of all shots attempted when Matthews is on the ice, and he ranks eighth in the League with 238 shots on goal.
Laine, meanwhile, is the first rookie with three hat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne (five) and Lindros (three) in 1992-93. He appreciates everything Maurice has done for his game his first season in North America.
Video: WPG@NSH: Laine rings a wicked wrister in off the post
"I think the most important thing is his trust in me," Laine said of Maurice. "He told me that it's better if you learn on your own and said it's not necessary that he constantly show me video. He's just going to let me learn how to play my game at my speed. He's given me the ice time, and has trusted me in different situations, so that's been awesome."
One of the most difficult adjustments for Laine has been an attempt to keep things simple, even when there may be a chance to spring loose and create an offensive opportunity. The Jets are giving up 88 more shot attempts with Laine on the ice (846-758).
"I can say I can play well in this league, can score and produce, so there's that kind of confidence since early in the season," Laine said. "But I've always believed in myself. Compared to early in the season, it's just now easier to see that I'm going to be a good player in this league."
Maurice said Laine's play away from the puck has improved greatly since opening night. But there is one aspect of his game that separates him from most.
"He's got a shot that nobody understands," Maurice said. "We slow it down on video, and watch the flex and he's got all different kinds. There's the one-timer that has incredible velocity. The wrist shot that gets off his stick before you think a guy can get it off. He can release it at his feet, or do it from outside. At his age, or any age, you just don't see that kind of shot very often."
Video: COL@WPG: Laine cranks home a slap shot
Laine ranks ninth in the League among skaters with at least 20 games played with an 18.9 shooting percentage on 175 shots. Since the All-Star break, Laine has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) and a 20.0 shooting percentage in 20 games.
Head to Head comparison
(Games through March 19)
Shots on goal: 238
Avg. ice time: 17:47
*Goals created per game: 0.34
Points per 60 minutes (all situations): 2.70
Shots on goal: 175
Avg. ice time: 18:01
*Goals created per game: 0.39
Points per 60 minutes (all situations): 3.12
*- information courtesy Hockey-reference.com