Auston Matthews is the best goal scorer on earth right now
In the midst of yet another ridiculous season at the age of 33, Alex Ovechkin is getting a lot of press at the moment. As he leads the scoring race in search of his eighth Rocket Richard Trophy, it feels like everyone is breaking out the calculators to see if he can catch Wayne Gretzky as the NHL’s all-time goal leader.
The answer is probably no, but it’s a fun storyline that will keep being fun for a while. Even if Ovi doesn’t get there, there’s a strong argument to be made that he’s the best goal scorer of all-time because of the era he played in. If Ovechkin had come up in the ’80s he might have scored 1,000 — that’s not an exaggeration.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s the best goal scorer on earth right now. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that admittedly-arbitrary title belongs to Auston Matthews. On Thursday night, he scored two goals and they looked like is:
Both nice and easy, both very Auston Matthews. The performance was his seventh multi-goal outing of the season. Put another way, he’s scored two in one third of his games this year. In his career he’s got 18 multi-goal efforts in 165 games, good for a ridiculous 10.9 percent rate. For reference, during that time Ovechkin has 19 multi-goal games, but in 197 contests, which is a 9.6 percent rate.
Although those numbers are just fun trivia, they are at the crux of the issue. If you look at total stats Ovechkin (and Patrik Laine for that matter) have Matthews beat at every turn. But that’s not what the debate of “who’s the best goal scorer?” is about. It’s not a durability contest. It’s a question of who is the most dangerous sniper in the league the moment they touch the ice. This second, that’s Matthews.
To illustrate, let’s compare Matthews to Ovechkin and Laine over a couple of time periods, because those are the only other guys in the discussion. Nikita Kucherov has one more goal than the Maple Leafs centre since the latter reached the NHL, but he did it in 25 more games so it seems fair to leave him out.
Matthews has improved every year — as guys going from 19-21 tend to do — so the more recent the time frame, the better his numbers look.
Last 3 Seasons
For what it’s worth on both of the categories where Matthews is tied here (Ovechkin on G/Game, and Laine on G/60) he’s ahead if you take it another decimal point.
Even so, everything is pretty well bunched together. At our next check point Matthews falls behind in one rate category for the first time, but starts to open up his G/60 gap.
Last 2 Seasons
Finally, this year, he’s been absurd on a rate basis.
There are certainly some caveats, especially with the final chart. Because of his injuries the numbers Matthews has put up come in a smaller, and therefore less reliable, sample. This season he’s also rocking a ridiculous 27.9 shooting percentage.
On the flip side, Ovechkin is also riding a goofy 21.6 percent this season and Laine has an 18.0 mark for his career that’s better than the 17.4 Matthews has got. The Maple Leafs pivot also has an advantage on the other two in sustaining a high shooting percentage because he shoots from far closer on average (25.2 feet) than either Laine (37.0) or Ovechkin (33.0).
Debates surrounding Matthews and Laine aren’t going away any time soon and the fact Ovechkin can be in the mix at all as he enters his mid-30s just speaks to how incredible he is. Nothing is getting decided today, and it won’t for some time.
That said, if you have to put your money on one player to score in a single game, or on a single shift, today, that guy is Auston Matthews. No one in the NHL is more dangerous right now.
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