By now everyone knows the slump that Auston Matthews and William Nylander finds themselves in for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nonetheless, the answer to his struggles could be switching up his linemates, which should include experimenting Nikita Soshnikov with Matthews for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the most part this season, Mike Babcock has kept Zach Hyman with Matthews and Nylander. There has been the occasional split of the line, but Hyman has spent most of this young season with Matthews.
Hyman is a blue-collar, put on your hard hat and get to work type of player. He’s someone you’d want to play on your third or fourth line. Nonetheless, his lack of skill shows when he plays with Matthews and Nylander from time to time.
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If Babcock is insisting a grinder be on the line with Matthews and Nylander then he needs to look at Soshnikov to fill that role. For one, Soshnikov has a lot more skill to go along with his blue-collar attitude.
Furthermore, the 5v5 numbers don’t lie that Soshnikov is a better option than Hyman.
In 15 games this season, Hyman holds a shooting percentage of 6.45 while also displaying a shot per 60 of 9.40. These numbers okay since he goes into the dirty areas to get them the puck.
Mike Babcock fired up the Vitamix late in that period and Soshnikov-Matthews*-Nylander became a thing for one shift.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 13, 2016
Leafs lines at practice
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 14, 2016
However, playing with the likes of Matthews and Nylander, more should be expected.
Also, his other offensive numbers aren’t much better since his goals per 60 is at 0.61 and averaging a point per 60 of 0.91 so far.
In contrast, Soshnikov has displayed better numbers offensively considering that he has been playing on the fourth line most of the time and his limited playing time.
Since his call-up, he has had a shooting percentage of 11.11 along with a shot per 60 of 9.68, which is impressive considering he has only played six games with the Maple Leafs.
His offensive advance stats get even better. When it comes to his goals per 60 is at 1.08 while his points per 60 are at 2.15 and yes, these stats should be taken with a grain of salt.
With only six games played these stats look good, but take into account his linemates. He has played with Matt Martin and Ben Smith, not exactly offensive juggernauts.
Matthews and Nylander need a linemate that has some offensive upside to compliment them. Soshnikov is a grinder like Hyman, but with a better shot and a bit more offense to his game. It’s because of his offensive game that he should be explored as an option with Matthews and Nylander.
Adding Soshnikov to their line may or may not work out. Nonetheless, with both of them in a scoring slump, Babcock should explore this option to get them going again.