Last year, one of the biggest debates was following the race to the Calder Memorial Trophy. Often defined as the “Rookie of the Year Award”, it is given to “the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League”, according to the NHL. The first two picks from the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Auston Matthews (first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Patrik Laine (second overall by the Winnipeg Jets) were seen as the top two contenders all throughout the season. When late April rolled around and the finalists for each award were announced, Matthews and Laine were both named nominees for the prestigious title, along with Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Matthews finished the 2016-2017 season with 69 points (40 goals and 29 assists), and he played in all 82 games. Laine ended the campaign with five fewer points in nine fewer games (36 goals and 28 assists for 64 points in 73 games). While the Maple Leaf ultimately came away with the honor, the two players were only 555 votes away from each other, with the Jet in second place. Today, the hype surrounding Matthews has certainly not died down (it has actually probably increased), but many people seem to have forgotten about his runner-up.
One category that Laine isn’t the runner-up in? Points, goals, assists, and games played, so far this season. He holds a whopping 61 points (38 goals and 23 assists) in 66 games, with 16 games left to play. In comparison, Matthews has 11 fewer points in 13 fewer games (28 goals and 22 assists for 50 points in 53 games). Additionally, Laine has three more career hat tricks than Matthews does. The hat trick registered by Matthews was definitely memorable, with four goals in his first NHL game. Laine had three last season, on October 19th vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, November 8th vs. the Dallas Stars, and February 14th, also vs. the Dallas Stars. He got his first three-goal performance of this season just a few days ago, on March 6th in a 3-0 win vs. the New York Rangers.
However, this certainly isn’t a call for more Matthews vs. Laine comparisons. In fact, it’s a call for the opposite.
Maybe fans should lay off the constant comparing of these two players. Of course, it’s expected, with two players just over seven months apart in age, and taken back-to-back by two Canadian teams as the first two picks of the draft, but they’re both amazing players in their own ways. So, while it’s totally fine to appreciate the extreme phenomenon that is Auston Matthews, don’t forget about Patrik Laine. They’re both very talented players, and it’s looking more and more likely that both of their teams will make huge comeback appearances in the playoffs this year.
What do you think about Auston Matthews vs. Patrik Laine comparisons? Do you think that either of their teams (Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, respectively) will make the playoffs? Let us know by tweeting us: @PuckItUpBlog.
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