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Get to Know a Maple Leaf: Auston Matthews

As part of the build-up to the first-round playoff series between the Capitals and the Maple Leafs, Japers' Rink will be looking at some of the important Leafs players and how they might impact the series.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews

#34 / Center / Toronto Maple Leafs

Height: 6-3 | Weight: 216 | Born: September 17, 1997

Birthplace: Scottsdale, AZ | Drafted: 1st, 2016 (Toronto)

  • Assets: Is an outstanding offensive talent, plus he owns a tremendous frame with plenty of projection. Knows how to use his size to his advantage and is great at protecting and maintaining possession of the puck. His shot is also lethal.
  • Flaws: Must prove he can physically dominate opponents at the highest level. Also needs to be able to handle raised expectations, since the spotlight will shine brightly upon him throughout his playing career.
  • Career Potential: Big, talented and all-round franchise center with huge upside.

Career 20-Game Rolling Five-on-Five CF% (via Corsica):

2016-17 Usage Chart (via Corsica):

Why you should know who he is: Oh, he’s just the generational talent drafted first overall last summer who not only met but far exceeded expectations, becoming just the second NHL rookie to score at least 40 goals since... well, since some guy named Alex Ovechkin did it over a decade ago. That’s all. And yet somehow he was underrated at the start of the season, go figure.

But seriously, Matthews is scary good, putting up a 40-goal, 29-assist season in his rookie campaign and leading a very young, inexperienced team back to the postseason. Playoffs are often a time for unsung heroes to step up, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect Matthews to play a central role in any postseason success the Leafs have against the Caps. He will be front and center.

How the Caps can stop him: [Insert unstoppable laughter... here.]

Just like any talent of his caliber - like the Ovechkins and Sidney Crosbys of the world - there’s not really a way to stop him. You can only hope to slow him down a bit, frustrate him and take away his time and space, but do so without forgetting about his talented linemates, Zach Hyman and William Nylander. Judging by Barry Trotz’s current defensive deployment, Matthews is going to get a healthy diet of John Carlson and Karl Alzner... here’s hoping they’re up to the task.