Maple Leafs Roundtable: It’s Auston Matthews World, We Just Live In It

Oct 12, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) skates in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) skates in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports /

After a record-setting debut, we discuss Auston Matthews, how many points the Toronto Maple Leafs could improve by with him, and more.

The Toronto Maple Leafs regular season might have started with a loss, but what a magnificent performance by Auston Matthews! If you thought the hype around him was too much before, it will be overwhelming now.

Since it’s clearly his world and we just live in it, we thought we would take a look at a few questions surrounding the Maple Leafs’ new superstar, including how many points the team could improve by with No. 34 now leading the charge.

To help answer those questions, we brought in a few of our own writers from Tip of the Tower.

Sitting at the Table:

Chris Okrainetz (@chrisokrainetz)
Chris McKee (@mrmckee)
David Morassutti (@d_morassutti)
Larry Faulkner

After Auston Matthews record-setting debut, how many points do you think he will he finish with this season?

Chris McKee: I think Matthews will finish somewhere in the 75 point mark. I just can’t see a 19-year-old being able to play all 82 games and adapting seamlessly to the rigorous travel schedule and physical pounding that the NHL has to offer. I’d say he’s just a little bit above the point-per-game mark and ends up playing about 65 games.

Larry Faulkner: When pondering Matthews points total possibilities prior to his record setting debut, I was quite happy to simply use an “equivalency simulator program” that extrapolated his Swiss League totals, adjusted for more games played in the NHL to come up with a first season points total of about 55 points.

Now, however, I cannot help but be further biased and extremely encouraged by what we’ve all witnessed in his first game. But a little voice in my head (one of many) is telling me to not go overboard with outlandish predictions, so I will simply add 10 percent to my original prediction and say he finish somewhere in the 60 point range.

David Morassutti: I said in my season preview between 55-60 points so I think he should have no problem reaching that. I even think that if he continues to produce with William Nylander and Zach Hyman, and get consistent time on the power play, he should be able to get 65 points.

Chris Okrainetz: I think he will finish in the 60-point range. Matthews is a special player who has the “it factor” scouts and executives spend countless hours searching for, but even with his remarkable talent he is still a 19-year-old rookie. He’s going to make mistakes, he’s going to endure growing pains, and he’s going to learn a lot this season. I think he’ll be a point-per-game player as early as next season, but expecting him to eclipse the 80-point mark this year is asking for a lot.

Hot take question, but who has the better career: Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid?

David Morassutti: Sadly I’ll have to go with Connor McDavid.

This is tough because it is like comparing Sidney Crosby to Jonathan Toews/Anze Kopitar. I think McDavid will have his fair share of success winning awards and will be a top point producer for years. I think Matthews will have a great career and become the second best player in the NHL behind McDavid.

More from Tip of the Tower

Chris McKee: I’d say Connor McDavid ends up having the better career for several reasons. I think Matthews has a few things going against him including playing for Toronto. Playing for the U.S. team also wont allow him the same type of success that playing for Team Canada does. McDavid will likely have a few World Cup titles and maybe an Olympic gold medal on his resume when all is said and done. Matthews may not have that same opportunity.

Chris Okrainetz: I’ll go with Connor McDavid here as well. It’s a fun question to ask since McDavid, Matthews, and even Jack Eichel, will be compared to each other for years to come, but I think McDavid is the “next” great player in NHL history. I mean, with a nickname like Connor “McJesus,” how could he not be?

Larry Faulkner: I simply refuse to go there. Would Mario Lemieux have had a better career than Wayne Gretzky is he was not hampered by back injuries and other ailments during his career?

So much can happen to these young players over the span of their time in the NHL and there are so many contributing factors to their success, not the least of which is the team they are playing on and who their line mates might be.

I will say this, however. I like the line of Matthews, William Nylander and Zach Hyman. This unit has the potential to be great for a number of years to come and while it may be appear that McDavid and Matthews are beginning their careers on equal footing, I do not see this type of intriguing trio among the Oilers’ current roster.

Over the past few years we’ve seen rebuilding teams from the previous season improve once their future talent arrives (Oilers with a healthy McDavid last year, the Blackhawks with Kane and Toews, Sabres with Eichel last season etc.). How many points will the Leafs improve by this season with Matthews and company?

Chris Okrainetz: I think they’ll improve by 10-15 points, but I could also see this team trading a ton of players again if the opportunity arises, which would make it tough for them to improve from last seasons 69 point total.

However, the Leafs lost 11 games in overtime last season, which was very unlucky, so if you cut that total in half, there’s five points right there. Flip a few of the one-goal third period losses they had last season into wins and I don’t think a 10 point jump is as farfetched as it sounds. Plus, I’m sure players are more acclimated with Mike Babcock’s system now, so I’d also expect an extra win or two with Babcock in charge.

Chris McKee: I’ll say the Leafs will decrease their point total from last year by about 10 points. We’re talking about a team full of kids who haven’t proven they can win at this level. The Leafs goaltending situation is also still shaky and mirrors the same formula of Leafs teams of the past decade where we have two No. 2 NHL level keepers and no solidified No. 1. We havent had a legit No. 1 since maybe 2004 or 2005 with Ed Belfour.

A team of kids with shaky keeping creates a likely scenario of a disastourous second half of the season. When injuries begin to affect the roster this team will be in trouble because all of their prospects are already on the roster and they won’t receive much help via the Marlies this year.

Larry Faulkner: During the preseason I had predicted a 14 point rise in the overall standings for the Leafs based on achieving the equivalent of seven more wins than last season. When I made this prediction, I had assumed that we would see tighter goaltending behind a very young team struggling to find their way.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

So far the opposite has been true. The Leafs are a very young team that is showing remarkable skill and poise in front of shaky goaltending. Though the dynamics have changed, and the course of the season will certainly be different than I had predicted, the outcome could be similar, so I am sticking with a 14 point improvement in the overall standings and could see the Leafs drafting anywhere from No. 7 to 10 next June.

David Morassutti: 15-20 points.

I think this team will only improve if their defence and goaltending play better. The Leafs will also need to get more goals on the power play with the talent on it. They will have their struggles with the young players and unless their veteran players can carry them, and other teams in the Eastern Conference struggle, the playoffs will be tough to reach.

It’s only been one game, but Mitch Marner played well on Wednesday night. Do you think he will stay with the Leafs all season, or do you think the team will not play him more than 39 games? (If Marner plays 40 games it puts him one-year closer to becoming a UFA)

David Morassutti: I think he will stay with the team all season and they will let his play dictate the number of games he plays. They will send him to the World Juniors, which will eat into some of those games, and a conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies is a possibility.

At this point if you are seeing growth from him why limit him? In the first game he played well with over 17 minutes, which is a nice change from what the Leafs have done in the past with their young players. This shows that Babcock does not want to hold him back, which is why I think he could play more games then people expect.

Chris McKee: I think there are realistic scenarios in place that would keep him under that game total. Marner joining the World Junior team for a month or so is a possibility and they can send him down to the Marlies for a few weeks at a time as well to stay under that number. However, if Marner can show over the first few weeks that he belongs, I think it would serve him better to stay with the Leafs and the club could risk alienating him and his agent by pulling a move like that if he shows he can belong.

Related Story: Are We In For Another Rough Maple Leafs Season?

Larry Faulkner: The Leafs could conceivably play Marner less than 40 games whil keeping him on the same team all season. While he cannot be reassigned to the Marlies due to his age and an agreement between the CHL and AHL, he can be sent down for conditioning stints. He can also be loaned to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships.

A motivation for utilizing these avenues of “managing” Marner may materialize from the need for a temporary roster spot to play and/or showcase trade pieces like Josh Leivo, Frank Corrado, or others.

Chris Okrainetz: The Leafs have been diligent with their prospects, but they’ve also been adamant about how contract stipulations (like burning a year off an entry level contract) would not dictate what they do.

I think the Leafs will send Marner to the World Juniors, but they will bring him back immediately after the tournament and continue to evaluate him on a game-by-game basis. If he thrives, they’ll let him play the entire season. If he struggles, they’ll pick and choose when they play him and they’ll slowly work him into their lineup.

Next: Remember the 'Three Day Rule' with Auston Matthews

Since Marner is viewed as a “core player” here in Toronto, I don’t think the Leafs care about his upcoming contracts. They likely view him as a Leaf for life, meaning they’ll do whatever it takes to sign him in the future.