Toronto Maple Leafs: Matthews establishing goal scoring dominance

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Auston Matthews
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 2: Auston Matthews /

Two seasons into his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews is among some elite company with his ability to score goals at even strength.

There is no denying the dynamic scoring ability that Auston Matthews brings to the Toronto Maple Leafs. After breaking Wendel Clark‘s record for goals by a Leafs rookie last season, it looks like the 20-year-old is not done reaching new milestones.

Considering how tough it is to score goals, this should not be seen as a small accomplishment for Matthews. For a player who is not featured on the Leafs’ top powerplay unit, unlike prolific goal scorers like Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, he continues to be a lethal goal scorer.

Where Matthews continues to make his mark is at even strength where, in 142 career games played, he has 61 goals. Since the 2005-06 season, no player has more goals at five-on-five than Matthews, with Ovechkin second with 58 and Laine third with 51 according to Hockey-Reference.

What makes this even more impressive is that Ovechkin scored those 58 goals over 163 games played and Laine got his in 153. The case could be made that the gap could have been bigger had Matthews not missed time with injuries this season.

Part of this can be credited to Mike Babcock, who made it a point to ensure that Matthews was a dominant player at even strength considering the position he plays.

This is not a player who is given sheltered minutes from his head coach in his sophomore season. In fact, Matthews’ offensive zone start percentage has gone down from 63 percent last season to 50.8 percent this season. On the defensive side, he went from starting 37 percent of the time in the defensive zone to 49.2 percent.

Once the playoffs start, Matthews will need to continue to perform at a high level at even strength, especially if Toronto is not able to get as many powerplay opportunities. Last season the Leafs were just 16.7 percent with the man advantage against the Washington Captials, struggling on the road and only converting once on 10 opportunities.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins are among the top-10 in the league in terms of allowing goals at even strength, while the Toronto Maple Leafs are 17th overall. If they want any kind of success, they will need to get the job done at five-on-five and Matthews will have to be the catalyst, like he has been the past two seasons.

Next: How the Leafs can sign John Tavares this summer

Is Matthews the most dominant goal scorer in the league or will he get there one day if he’s not? Let us know in the comments below.