Mark Barbour (@18sktrs, patreon.com/18skaters)
This week I’m looking at the leading goal scorers in the NHL and I have my eye on one in particular: Auston Matthews. Coming into this season I expected Matthews to be the best goal scorer in the league, and my personal skater projections still think that should be the case. Expectations and projections aside, Auston Matthews is not especially close to the top of the goal scoring leader board at this point in the season. So what’s going on here?
A Note About The Data
The data for this article were pulled from Natural Stat Trick and include games played on or before December 19, 2022.
Comparing Scoring Metrics For The Top Goal Scorers
The plot below shows the skaters who have scored more than 15 goals this season. A “scoring metric” is displayed on the x-axis of the plot. It’s a simple combination of each skater’s shots, scoring chances, and expected goals (a multiplier was applied to each skater’s expected goals in order to give it a similar weighting to shots and scoring chances). The idea here is to get a sense of which skaters are “doing the things” that should result in goals, and compare that to the number of actual goals scored. To help with this comparison I added a linear “smoother” line to the plot that shows the relationship between the scoring metric and actual goals scored.
Both the size and colour of each dot in this plot are linked to the skater’s scoring metric. A big blue/purple dot indicates a high scoring metric.
The skater with the highest scoring metric in the NHL right now is Auston Matthews. That’s reassuring. Interestingly, Timo Meier is in essentially the same position as Auston Matthews – he has the second highest scoring metric and both skaters are tied for the fewest actual goals on this list.
Matthews is still “doing the things” that lead to scoring, and he has increased his scoring pace in recent games. I expect him to rise up the goal scoring leader board rather quickly as the season goes on (though it might be too late for him to reach the top before the end of the season). One area where we could see a big improvement is on the power play. Matthews has scored only 1 power play goal in his last 14 games. That’s bound to improve.
It probably won’t be easy to acquire Auston Matthews in your league but now is the time to try, while he’s still buried on the scoring list. If you can’t get your hands on Auston Matthews take a look at Timo Meier. If you already have Auston Matthews on your roster, be patient. The goals are going to come.
The End Of The Article
I’m visiting family for the holidays right now so I’m ending the article here. I’ll leave you to make your own observations about the other skaters in this plot. Enjoy!