Welcome back for the ninth installment of my series on the top NHL fantasy hockey players of 2019/20, where I dive deep into how they performed this year and try to project what their 2020/21 season might look like. You can go back and read my previous article on Patrick Kane here. Let’s get the basics out of the way:
Unofficial Attractiveness Score (as judged by my wife): 4/10 (would be a point or two higher without the “pedo ‘stache”)
Matthews continued his ascent into the NHL’s elite ranks in 2019/20, forming a three-way race with David Pastrnak and Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL’s top goal scorer. He is somewhat of a polarizing player as the best player on the Maple Leafs, the self-proclaimed center of the hockey universe. Detractors of the Leafs like to minimize Matthews’ accomplishments while fans extol his virtues and declare they’d even choose him over Connor McDavid. Let’s look for the real story on Matthews’ ability to sustain this top-10 level of point production:
Let’s start with the IPP, where Matthews posted the lowest mark of his career by a fair percentage. That’s a pretty strong indication of positive regression for 2020/21. Matthews generated shots at an elite rate once again (9th among all players with min. 50 GP), and improved his S% by 1.5%. I’d imagine Matthews will average out to a 15-15.5% career S%, so a small regression there is certainly possible. Matthews’ individual chances for rates declined a bit from his 2018/19 highs, but still remain well inline with his career stats. The biggest change was his jump of over 2 minutes/game in average time on ice, including 40 seconds of extra PP time/game. This change may also explain some of Matthews’ slight decrease in his efficiency rates. Matthews averaged 21:32 TOI/GP under new coach Sheldon Keefe, so an extra 30 seconds of ice/game is certainly predictable for the 2020/21 campaign. Matthews also switched linemates about the same time Keefe took over, changing from William Nylander and Andreas Johnsson to Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. Here’s how those effects play out 5-on-5:
From this graph we see that Matthews and Nylander have a net positive effect on each other, while Marner actually holds Matthews back. Johnsson and Hyman are more neutral. In any event, the lack of red towards the right hand side of the graph indicates what we expected to see: Matthews is the primary shots for/60 driver for the Leafs, and could actually perform better 5v5 if reunited with Nylander in 2020/21. After examining all the variables, I’d put Matthews’ floor at 90 points for 2020/21, with a ceiling at 106 points.
2020/21 Projection: 76 GP, 51 G, 46 A, 97 PTS
- Matthews’ IPP shows positive regression is likely; generates shots and scoring chances at an elite level
- Minor regression in S% possible
- Generates more 5v5 with Nylander than Marner; will be worth monitoring throughout the 2020/21 season
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