Far Too Early for Matthews-Laine Comparisons

by | Dec 11, 2016 | Soapbox | 6 comments

The "Who's Better: Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine?" debate has already begun.

The “Who’s Better: Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine?” debate has already begun.

Only two months into this season, the inevitable comparisons between Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine have begun.

Matthews and Laine were the first and second overall selections in the 2016 NHL Draft. Both were projected to be potential superstars and foundation players for their respective NHL clubs.

It’s understandable that some fans and pundits are already comparing the two. After all, the NHL’s current franchise players – Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin – underwent similar scrutiny during their NHL debuts in 2005-06.

Comparing the next potential wave of league superstars, especially if they’re selected in the same draft year and join the league at the same time, generates fodder for the usual “who’s better” debates.

As of Dec 10, Laine sat atop the rookie scoring lead with 17 goals and 25 points. Matthews, meanwhile, was in second place with 12 goals and 20 points.

Laine leads the Jets in goals and is jockeying with Crosby for the league lead in that category. He’s also just behind Mark Scheifele for the Jets’ points lead.

Matthews is tied for the Leafs’ goal-scoring lead and is jostling with James van Riemsdyk as the team’s leader in points.

Both players are off to impressive starts to their NHL careers. But because Laine is battling with the vaunted Crosby for the league goal-scoring lead, some observers consider him a better player than Matthews.

It must be remembered, however,  Laine plays on a club with a deeper roster than the rebuilding Leafs. He’s skating with established scorers such as Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little, as well as puck-moving blueliners such as Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom.

Laine’s also struggled to score on the road. Fourteen of his 17 goals came at home.

Matthews, meanwhile, plays for a team in the midst of a significant rebuild. The Jets carry considerably more established scoring talent than the Leafs, whose only notable veteran scorer is James van Riemsdyk. 

The first two months of a rookie campaign is also no reliable indicator of how an NHL career will unfold. 

Laine and Matthews have a long way to go to determine which one becomes the better player. We can only guess what’s ahead for them. While it’s certainly possible that they could go on to become great players, unforeseen events could also derail their careers. Perhaps one of them will become a better individual player and the other the better leader and all-around performer.

Besides, the debate over who’s best between Laine and Matthews could be a moot point. Both could be overshadowed by Edmonton Oilers sophomore center Connor McDavid, who’s already establishing his place among the league’s elite stars.

For all we know, in a few years, observers could be saying, “Yeah, Laine and Matthews are great players, but they don’t hold a candle to McDavid.”







6 Comments

  1. Laine is impressive but being a Leaf fan I’ll take the big center because that is what we needed. Laine is leading the Calder now and even if they had the same points I expect Marner will take some votes from Matthews. The Canadian teams sure got some good young players to watch.

    I am hoping the Leafs get another high pick this year hopefully to get a future top 2 defenseman but if not they have a lot of offensive talent to trade for one?

    • I`m impressed with a lot of the kids this year, not only Laine and Matthews. There`s a no. of kids that could win the calder, but over time I think Matthews will turn out to be the best of this lot, but not by a lot mind you. This debate will go on for years, at least I hope so. Good for hockey good for both kids. The 2017 draft isn`t gonna be anywhere near 2016, might be a good year to trade the pick. 2018 looking better, especially for defencemen.

  2. Yeah, Laine and Matthews are great players, but they don’t hold a candle to McDavid.
    There I said it and I’m a Leaf fan, let’s be frank unless something tragic happens to cut McDavids career short he is going to be the better player hands down by miles. There is little doubt of that.

    • I don`t think there`ll ever be a debate on that one. I`m a leafs fan and I was born and raised in Edmonton. Watching these days, any one of them could have their careers cut short by a cheap shot. Ask Manning, boy Bettman has turned it into a no hit, no fight, cheap shot league. Kinda like playing in the beer leagues now, only better pay

  3. it all comes don to playoffs and cups…

    • agreed Mcdavid is the better player and more than likely at one point will be the best player for a time.

      Not sure what your talking about when you say it all comes down to playoffs and cups but if your measuring a teams success i think it only comes down to playoffs from a fans perspective. All any fan wants for sure is their team to give them at least a playoff series every year. Only one team can win the cup. It would be ridiculous to say only one team is successful every season. Especially in a season like this one when its harder than ever to make the playoffs…just making it over all the teams that are as good as each other is a win