Just how many goals can Auston Matthews score for the Toronto Maple Leafs? He has three in just two pre-season games, so by my calculations that puts him on pace for 123 in 82 regular-season games. Of course, reading much of anything into preseason games is borderline ludicrous. Despite his torrid pace to start the pre-season, 123 goals is a lofty aspiration. It is a possibility Auston Matthews scores 50 though. He may even have a chance to win the Maurice Richard Trophy this season.
Will Auston Matthews Score 50 For The Toronto Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs haven’t had a fifty-goal scorer since Dave Andreychuk scored 53 in the 1993-1994 season. Matthews had 34 in 62 games in 2017-2018. That’s a pace of 45 goals in a full 82 games. He dropped off slightly in 2018-2019 with 37 goals in 68 games, but he was still around that pace of 45 goals over 82 games. If Matthews can stay healthy all season, scoring 45 to 50 goals should be expected, but there are many reasons to think he can be even better this season.
Alex Ovechkin, who has won the Maurice Richard trophy in six of the past seven years and eight times overall, scored 65 goals the year he turned 22. Matthews turns 22 this season. If you want to bring in a preternatural aspect, if you believe in hockey gods and such, both Matthews and Ovechkin were born on September 17th.
The more tangible comparables here are unmistakable. Ovechkin is one of the greatest goal scorers to play the game. Matthews could very well be in that same conversation by the time he retires, and for that to happen, this may be the year he sets a career season-high in goals scored. Just like Ovechkin did when he was 22.
Matthews is coming into his prime. If he’s going to be the sort of player that wins Rocket Richard trophies, and all the signs point to him being able to do that, this is the season to start.
The Athletic had an article before last season about just how deadly and unique Matthews’ shot is. They call it a ‘mini one-timer to himself’. It’s not quite a wrist shot. It’s a little slower and a lot more accurate. Eventually, goalies may catch on to Matthews, but as a big man willing to get close to the goalie, his incredible shot isn’t the only thing he has going for him.
Andreychuk made his living scoring what many people called ‘garbage goals’. He would use his hulky frame to anchor himself in front of the goalie and with his long reach, he could chip in a rebound and poke a puck into the net that a goalie had mostly stopped. Few of these goals would make it to a top ten list. Matthews doesn’t have quite the reach Andreychuk did, but you’ll still see him hovering around the goalie quite often looking for a hole to open. The difference between Matthews and Andreychuk is Matthews often has the puck when he’s in close.
We all remember the William Nylander saga from last year. It lasted all the way to December 1st. Thank those hockey gods Mitch Marner decided to save Maple Leafs fans that painful trip this year. Whatever you think of Nylander at this point, he’s going to be better this season. Missing training camp and two months of real hockey can’t be easy. He never really got to where he wanted to be for the Maple Leafs. This season, he’s got a fresh start. He’s starting from day one of training camp and has something to prove. That’s going to make him, and his linemates even more dangerous.
There’s no guarantee that Nylander will play with Matthews, but they’ve shown chemistry in the past. Unless they struggle, they’ll start the season together. If Nylander can be the threat most people think he’s capable of, he and Matthews will make each other better. That means more goals for both of them.
The Power Play
Since Matthews entered the league, only one player has more even-strength goals. Connor McDavid has 92 even-strength goals since 2016. Matthews has 86. Matthews has also played 30 fewer games. Auston Matthews scores even-strength goals like few can. One of the areas Toronto surprisingly struggled with last season was the power play.
They had 46 power-play goals. Good enough for 16th in the NHL. Many expected them to fare much better in that category. One reason they didn’t have more power-play goals was simply that they have fewer power-play opportunities, a category they were dead last in the NHL in with 211. Still, they ended the season with the league’s eighth-ranked power-play unit. There are improvements to be made here. The Maple Leafs scored the fourth-most goals in the NHL last season. They should be top-five in power-play goals too.
With a team built for offence, there’s no reason they can’t score considerably more power-play goals. If they do, Matthews will have to lead the charge. That’s not to say Matthews has been invisible on the power-play. He has 25 power-play goals in his three years. John Tavares has 29 while Ovechkin has 52. If Matthews is going to take over as the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer, he’s going to need to score more power-play goals.
Scoring power-play goals fits well with the team structure Kyle Dubas has built. Toronto isn’t a team that will beat you in the alleys. They claim they’ll beat you on the scoreboard if you’re foolish enough to do something penalty worthy. That sounds well and good, but the power-play has a ways to go before it’s as fearful as the Maple Leafs would like it to be.
Scoring When It Matters
Even if Matthews wins the Richard Trophy or even the Hart Trophy, it won’t sit well if the Maple Leafs can’t make it out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Matthews will have to keep his goal scoring consistent throughout the playoffs for the Leafs to have any real success. The good news is he has 10 goals in 20 playoff games, including five in last year’s seven-game series against the Boston Bruins. If he shows he’s better during the regular season this year, it’s a safe bet to assume he’ll be better come playoff time too.
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 13: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates with the puck during a game against the Boston Bruins in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 13, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)