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Where Will Maple Leafs Matthews Fit Among Elite Penalty Killers?

Having Auston Matthews play on the penalty kill might have a huge upside. In the recent NHL, where might he fit among other elite PK players?

During the Toronto Maple Leafs second preseason game on Monday, Auston Matthews played on the penalty kill (PK). If this continues, will Matthews take on a more prominent role in penalty killing? And, if he does, will he be good at it?

Other elite NHL players have had the PK as part of their games. I believe Matthews will be as good at this aspect as he has been with other facets of the game. If so, how will he stack up against other elite NHL players who’ve excelled in this aspect of the game? Recent seasons have seen star players making significant contributions on the penalty kill, showcasing their defensive skills and hockey IQ.

There are a number of notable penalty-killing stars that have played big minutes shorthanded. Where might Matthews fit?

1. Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)

Bergeron was often hailed as one of the best two-way players in the NHL. Just retired, he has exceptional defensive skills, faceoff prowess, and the ability to read the game. These skills made him a fixture on the Bruins’ penalty kill. Bergeron was arguably the best two-way forward over the past two decades.

While Matthews is primarily known for his offensive prowess, his hockey IQ and dedication to improving defensively could prove him to be a valuable asset. In that, he would be much like Bergeron when playing shorthanded. Matthews will never be Bergeron, but he’s got some of the same skills.

2. Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins)

Brad Marchand, Bergeron’s teammate, is another offensive star who has found success on the penalty kill. His speed, tenacity, and knack for generating short-handed scoring chances made him a key piece of the Bruins’ PK unit. If Matthews brings his scoring instincts and defensive dedication to the penalty kill, could he carve out a similar role?

Mitch Marner Maple Leafs extension rumors
Mitch Marner Maple Leafs extension rumors

3. Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs’ second-best player after Matthews, has steadily improved his defensive abilities over the seasons. With Bergeron’s retirement, there’s speculation he could become a top Selke Award contender, recognizing the league’s best defensive forward. As Matthews and Marner continue to evolve their games, they could form a formidable combination on the penalty kill.

4. Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)

McDavid, widely regarded as the best player in the NHL, has shown his versatility by contributing to every special team. This includes the penalty kill. His ability to excel in defensive situations while maintaining his offensive prowess is a testament to his incredible skill set. Could Matthews can demonstrate similar skills? If so, he could join McDavid in the elite ranks of players who impact both ends of the ice.

Related: Maple Leafs Mark Giordano: Proud To Be NHL’s Oldest Player

The Bottom Line

As the Maple Leafs use Matthews on the penalty kill, it’s important to recognize he’s entering a realm of other elite two-way forwards. However, there’s reason to believe Matthews could be just as good – or better. He has exceptional offensive awareness, natural scoring instincts, dedication, and support from the coaching staff. Watch for him to become a valuable asset on the PK.

McDavid vs Matthews Oilers Maple Leafs
McDavid vs. Matthews Oilers Maple Leafs

He might not immediately reach the same level as some of these established penalty-killing stars. Still, his potential impact on the team’s shorthanded play is an exciting prospect for Maple Leafs fans. The question remains: Where will Matthews eventually fit among these great recent penalty-killers?

Only time will tell, but the possibilities are intriguing. If this works, fans should expect some amazing highlight reel goals very soon.

Related: The Good, Bad, & Ugly In Maple Leafs First Preseason Game

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