Frozen Fantasy: History in the Making

We’re watching the start of a change to hockey’s Mount Rushmore. And not because of Alex Ovechkin’s goal scoring or Sidney Crosby’s talents. Or even Connor McDavid’s scoring.

Papi is the next one. And we get to watch it happen.

Auston Matthews is already elite. He’s second only to Ovie in goal scoring since he hit the ice in 2016-17. His 1.64 G/60 5v5 from him since he stepped on NHL ice is top of the heap.

Papi’s defensive game has already become Datsyukian. His back check from him is stealth and he leads all forwards this season in takeaways (61). His 59.1 CF% of him is just a tiny slice behind the 59.5 of Aleksander Barkov, last year’s Selke winner.

Matthews’ ability to create elite offense from exceptional defense is unparalleled right now. In fact, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a player like this.

And he’s only getting better.

This isn’t an argument for the Hart or the Selke. That’s a single-season honour. But it’s interesting to note that only Pavel Datsyuk and Anze Kopitar have gotten a Hart nomination the year they won the Selke. A forward who plays electrifying offense and game-changing defense? Year after year?

Those things have pretty much been mutually exclusive. Until now.

I think we’re witnessing history. Papi is a guy who’s transforming the game. Centers often score less because of the role’s defensive responsibilities. Some overfocus on the latter and leave the sniping to their wingers. Not Matthews.

I vaguely remember bits of

We’re watching the start of a change to hockey’s Mount Rushmore. And not because of Alex Ovechkin’s goal scoring or Sidney Crosby’s talents. Or even Connor McDavid’s scoring.

Papi is the next one. And we get to watch it happen.

Auston Matthews is already elite. He’s second only to Ovie in goal scoring since he hit the ice in 2016-17. His 1.64 G/60 5v5 from him since he stepped on NHL ice is top of the heap.

Papi’s defensive game has already become Datsyukian. His back check from him is stealth and he leads all forwards this season in takeaways (61). His 59.1 CF% of him is just a tiny slice behind the 59.5 of Aleksander Barkov, last year’s Selke winner.

Matthews’ ability to create elite offense from exceptional defense is unparalleled right now. In fact, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a player like this.

And he’s only getting better.

This isn’t an argument for the Hart or the Selke. That’s a single-season honour. But it’s interesting to note that only Pavel Datsyuk and Anze Kopitar have gotten a Hart nomination the year they won the Selke. A forward who plays electrifying offense and game-changing defense? Year after year?

Those things have pretty much been mutually exclusive. Until now.

I think we’re witnessing history. Papi is a guy who’s transforming the game. Centers often score less because of the role’s defensive responsibilities. Some overfocus on the latter and leave the sniping to their wingers. Not Matthews.

I vaguely remember bits of Wayne Gretzky’s career, but they were late in his reign. And as much as I like Sid and Ovie, they don’t get me on the edge of my seat every shift the way Matthews does.

Papi steals moments and that can happen at any time on any shift. If he can stay healthy, Matthews will join Gretzky and Bobby Orr as players who truly changed the game.

Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Ross ColtonLW/C, Tampa Bay (3 percent Yahoo!) – Colton was the best Bolt skater on the ice Thursday in Calgary. He fed Alex Killorn for a sweet goal and his assist stretched his point streak to four games (one goal, three assists). Colton didn’t take the expected step forward this season after his Cup-winning goal last July, but he’s still a real buzzsaw on skates. He has 11 hits and 19 faceoff wins in those four games and sits second overall on the team in hits (103). This little offensive burst may not last, but then again it might if they keep Colton, Killorn and Mathieu Joseph together. His versatility makes him worth watching.

Nico DawsG, New Jersey (9 percent Yahoo!) – Keep an eye on this guy. He’s won two of his last three starts heading into Saturday and is 4-3 in his last seven starts. Daws’ numbers are NHL average – a 2.68 GAA and .909 save percentage. But put it in perspective. Daws is a 2020 draft pick and only 21. Spencer Knight, the next great one, hasn’t been able to deliver league average production this season. The net belongs to Daws and league average production is better than a lot of guys right now. Just saying.

Noah DobsonD, NY Islanders (64 percent Yahoo!) – The recipe for Dobson’s ascension is finally coming together. Pre-draft, he was touted as a possible Alex Pietrangelo at maturity because of his advanced defending coupled with QB ability. And under Barry Trotz, Dobson is growing in leaps and bounds. He’s on a five-game scoring streak heading into Sunday with six points – including five power-play assists – and 11 blocked shots. He also has 12 points in his last 12 games, half of which came with the man advantage. Dobson is a must-roster in all leagues right now, not just the two-thirds he’s in. Check your wire just in case. You might get lucky.

Dysin MayD, Arizona (1 percent Yahoo!) – Mayo isn’t here because of his three-game, four-point scoring streak heading into Saturday. That offense is pure bonus. Mayo has proven his physical mettle from him as a rookie defend this season and leads the ‘Yotes with 95 hits in 48 games. And this week, he’s been particularly productive with nine blocks and 11 hits in three appearances. Mayo is almost universally available if you need a little cheap category coverage.

Josh NorrisC, Ottawa (46 percent Yahoo!) – Check your wire. I’ll wait. Norris is back from IR and immediately picked things up right where he left off. In five games since his return from him, he has four goals, two assists, four PPPs, 14 shots and 42 faceoff wins. Yup – that Erik Karlsson deal is looking better and better every month that he passes. The Sens have nothing to lose and they’ll likely all overproduce a little in the next month. Might as well do that on your team.

Nick SchmaltzRW/C, Arizona (34 percent Yahoo!) – Twelve points in three games? He’s on a four-game, 13-point streak that includes five goals and he’s the top fantasy producer over the last week. Yep. Nick Schmaltz. I got lucky and got them all, and I’m not letting go. He can’t keep it up, but he could still deliver at close to a point-per-game pace.

Dylan StromeRW/C, Chicago (17 percent Yahoo!) – We all know Strome’s struggles in October. And the disdain the previous management seemed to have for him. But he’s arguably been the team’s top pivot this season and has scored at a point-per-game pace since Jan. 4 (24 points, including 14 goals, in 24 games). The trade drama seems to have passed and Strome is really clicking with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. And with his multi-position eligibility, he should be delivering for a lot more than about one in every seven leagues.

Tim StutzleLW/C, Ottawa (35 percent Yahoo!) – Look out Ottawa – this is the Stutzle we’ve all been waiting on. Heading into Saturday, he was riding a four-game, seven-point scoring streak with just a minus-1 rating. Plus 11 shots, 12 hits and 17 faceoffs won. Nice. Stutzle is going to be a star and this stretch could be the beginning of the ascension. He and the Sens have nothing to lose. That’s worth a roll of the dice.

Back to Daddy.

He’s quickly climbing the list of best American hockey players. But he’s way more than that.

Enjoy this gift. Watch every game you can. Pray for no serious injuries. We don’t often get to witness true greatness – transformational greatness.

Cheer for Matthews, even if you hate the Leafs. McDavid became the sixth-fastest player to 600 points earlier this year, but Papi’s end-to-end game is better. Maybe he can be what Mario Lemieux could have been.

And Super Mario was pretty damn special.

I know, I know – this sounds like blasphemy from a Canadian. Pfft. Great is great, and don’t knock on Connor. I just can’t wait to see what heist Matthews pulls off each game.

Until next week.

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