Jets’ Mark Scheifele: Matthews is ‘not at McDavid’s level just yet’

The Hockey Central at Noon crew debates this very topic, giving Connor McDavid the speed and playmaking ability, but giving Auston Matthews the shot and 200-foot game advantage.

WINNIPEG — Hey Mark Scheifele. You played with Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid on Team North America at the World Cup, and you’ve faced them both in the NHL.

Is Matthews really a better player than McDavid, like the folks in Toronto are saying?

"No."

Care to expound on that a bit?

"Obviously Auston’s a great player, he’s got a lot of skill and you watch him on a nightly basis, he makes a lot of really good plays," said the Jets centre. "Connor McDavid has put up back-to-back 100-point seasons. He’s done a lot that Matthews obviously hasn’t done. Matthews is a star in this league and he’s going to get better. But he’s not at McDavid’s level just yet."

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You’ve heard of those players who stay away from hockey when they leave the rink? Guys who don’t go home and surf the Centre Ice package on an off night?

Yeah, Scheifele isn’t one of those guys. He’s in tune with the league and knows everything that’s going on. Also, he will no doubt play alongside McDavid — and against Matthews — when the NHL players go back to the Winter Olympics one day.

He’s seen Matthews tearing it up for the 6-1 Maple Leafs, becoming just the 11th player to have 16 points in his first six games — a group that includes Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. But better than McDavid?

Not in Scheifele’s opinion.

"Toronto’s played seven games. Edmonton’s only played three," cautioned Scheifele. "It’s still early in the season and there’s still so much that will happen. Every year there’s ebbs and flows. Auston’s had a great start and you want him to keep going, but it’ll be interesting to have this conversation later in the season."

The question was posed to Oilers coach Todd McLellan, who coached that Team North America squad as well. You know who he’s going to pick.

"I would agree with you wholeheartedly — except we have Connor," began McLellan. "Auston Matthews, and Connor, and Sid, and Nathan MacKinnon, and Taylor Hall… This league is blessed with a tremendous amount talent right now. Young players who are full of courage, and full of talent who entertain on a nightly basis. Auston would be one of them."

"You are allowed to pick your own guy, Todd," someone said.

"I believe he is (the best player). But I’m not going to take anything away from Auston Matthews. He’s had a tremendous start, and he’s a good kid. I’ve had the pleasure of being around him.

"But, 97 is a damned good player. I’ll tell you that."

Scheifele faces McDavid tonight in Winnipeg. He’s quietly hoping McDavid isn’t catching wind of this growing conversation in the Canadian hockey world.

"I’m sure Connor likes challenges," Scheifele said, "and wants to be the best player he can be. I’m sure Auston having a great start is only pushing him to do more.

"And that’s bad news for us."

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