The Maple Leafs as most people know are stacked up front in offensive depth with Hyman, Brown, GOAT and many more rookies. They have players like Kadri, JVR, Komarov and Bozak as a veteran presence. Despite all those players the Leafs are led by 3 elite rookies, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. All have played amazing early this season and are in the running for the Calder trophy. I thought I would take a look at the Big 3 for the Leafs and compare them as I have heard a few people say one is better than the other. Lets take a look!

Games played/ TOI

Matthews: 34 GP,  476 mins, average 17:48 mins per game

Marner: 34 GP, 456 mins average 17:08 mins per game

Nylander: 33 GP, 421 mins average 16:13 mins per game

All 3 players are relatively even, Nylander has played a number of games on the 4th line this season as “punishment” for his worth ethic as seen by Babcock. Matthews gets his majority of his starts in the offensive zone and doesn’t play on the penalty kill. Marner has played 20 less mins in the same number of GP, that could be attributed to Matthews strong possession numbers and being put out in clutch situations more.

Take/Give aways

Matthews: 33 TK, 15 GV  +18 turnover +/- 3rd in the NHL

Marner: 28 TK, 28 GV total 0 +/- 280th in the NHL

Nylander: 25 TK, 13 GV  +12 +/- 18th in the NHL

Although its early in the season this is where I see differences just watching the game, not even looking at stats. For all the amazing things Marner does offensively like taking chances and making flashy plays, he does seem to turn the puck over quite a bit. Still even numbers which is good, if he turns those give aways into chances for imagine how good he would be! I am impressed with Matthews numbers seeing as how he is starting to get bigger minutes against top competition.

Advanced stats 5 on 5

CF%          SF%          GF%

Matthews        52.53        55.19          53.85

Marner             50.47       49.61         53.06

Nylander         50.90       49.90        44.83

I chose 5 on 5 stats as all of these players are offensive and don’t play the PK. We know they all can score on the PP. Essentially you want to be above 50 as that is even for and against. Matthews Cosri for %, Shots on goal %, and Goals for % are all really good above 50 %. At his age thats nuts especially since the caliber of players he plays against 5 on 5. Marner is pretty consistent across the board, but Nylander is surprised me with his GF%. At 44.83% that means he gives up more goals against then are scored for while he is on the ice 5 on 5.

I love to look at 5 on 5 stats, especially with players like this that only play 5 on 5 and PP time. What happens when that player is on the ice? Does the line make good decisions, take quality shots. Below are the shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts for each player. Matthews line has taken a higher percentage of unblocked shots which could attribute to better cycling and opening up space.

SAT%          USAT%

Matthews     52.48           53.96

Marner         50.47           49.46

Nylander      50.79          50.52


The other factor to judge these players are who they play with, Matthews plays with two rookies in Hyman and Brown as of late who are more of a hard nosed cycling line. I watched many times where Hyman was cherry pickng at the blue line where Matthews wont pass to him, but if Nylander is in the same spot he will pass to him. Its hard to play with guys who you may not have as much confidence in.

Marner on the other hand has been paired with Bozak and JVR all season. Sort of sheltered with two vets to help him along but has played great with them to start the season. Nylander has spent the majority of time on the Matthews line but recently has been stuck on the 4th line or up and down in the lineup.

I believe all 3 players are amazing elite level talents that will be around long term with the Leafs. But its quite obvious that Matthews is the top out of the 3 of them. He is a more complete player on both sides of the ice, plays with “lesser” players on his line and is still dominating. I would follow it up with Marner 2nd and Nylander 3rd. If you disagree switch Matthews and Marner on each others lines, I say the Bozak line gets far better and the new Hyman line gets far worse.

I would love to see Marner up with Kadri and Nylander put on the Bozak line in the future. Such first world problems we have… Oh what elite offensive player is better while any other NHL team would LOVE to have even one of them. I cant wait to compare these players later in the season and see the changes they have made, most likely all will improve which is amazing!


Let me know who you think is better, comment below or on Facebook or tweet me @TMLHockeytlk

Here is the link to the NHL Leafs advanced stats,gte,1&sort=points,goals,assists