Since Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine burst onto the scene as the top two selections of the 2016 NHL Draft, debating which of the two superstars is the stronger talent has been a hot topic within the hockey world. After all, both players have proven they’re capable of producing points in bunches and have been key contributors in their teams’ roads back to relevancy since entering the league three seasons ago.
Add former Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin to the list of those giving their take on one of the sport’s most intriguing rivalries.
“I think Matthews [is better], but let me make this clear: I think both are fantastic players,” Sundin told NHL.com while attending the NHL Alumni Awards Gala on Monday.
“It’s tough to compare. But I think if you look at it this early in their careers, I think Matthews is ahead in terms of the physical aspect of his game and his control of everything he does.”
Based on the results so far this 2018-19 season, it’s more than reasonable to agree with the former Toronto captain’s take. Matthews has sprinted out to a tremendous start for the Maple Leafs, leading the NHL in both goals (10) and points (16) through nine games. Meanwhile, Laine hasn’t quite heated up yet, registering five points (3G, 2A) in the same sample size.
Looking on a more macro level, Matthews has tallied 148 points in 153 NHL games, putting him slightly ahead of Laine’s 139 points in 164 career outings.
With both superstars only starting to scratch the surface of their potential, we’ll be watching both over the next decade-plus, tracking their respective accomplishments as they enter their primes. Sundin will be, too.
“Both have bright futures and will be superstars in the National Hockey League for many years to come. Both have started their careers in great ways. Two different players, but they both produce magic in their own ways.”
Matthews and Laine will add another chapter to their budding rivalry when the Maple Leafs take on the Jets in a home-and-home series beginning on Wednesday.
Since the two offensive forces made their debuts, Laine’s Jets have won the head-to-head battle against Matthews’ Maple Leafs with a 2-1-1 record against Toronto since the start of the 2016-17 campaign. The two teams square off again Wednesday in Winnipeg.