Despite only playing 10 games since he was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Matheson quickly established his value by producing some of the same types of numbers Habs fans came to expect from Jeff Petry in his prime.
And it’s not a matter of leading the Canadiens in one distinct statistical category, Matheson leads them in a laundry list of crucial statistics.
Matheson sits first among Canadiens defencemen with 1.37 points per 60 minutes of ice time, owing to an elevated shot rate relative to his defensive teammates.
To give you an idea of the gap in talent within the Canadiens’ veteran defencemen, Joel Edmundson and Chris Wideman have produced 0.38 points per 60 this season.
David Savard, a much more offence-orientated defenceman, isn’t as far behind as his other veteran teammates, but he still trails Matheson significantly with 1.01 points per 60.
The only defenceman that comes close to matching Matheson’s production this season has been Kaiden Guhle, with 1.19 points per 60.
Unsurprisingly, Matheson also leads the defensive group in goals per 60, assist per 60, individual high-danger scoring chances, individual expected goals for, and as previously mentioned, shots per 60.
Mike Matheson in his @CanadiensMTL debut! 🚨
Also can we talk about that delightful dish from Nick Suzuki (@nsuzuki_37)?
— NHL (@NHL) November 20, 2022
Matheson has played 20 minutes or more with four defensive partners, with three of the four experiments resulting in very encouraging underlying numbers.
The only player that Matheson did not seem to mesh with was Johnathan Kovacevic.
When Matheson played alongside David Savard, the Canadiens controlled more than 63 percent of the shots and 73 percent of the high-danger chances.
It’s a notable improvement for Savard, who has only controlled a little over 41 percent of the shots and 43 percent of the quality scoring chances this season when not paired with Matheson.
The same phenomenon occurs when verifying Joel Edmundson and Jordan Harris’ underlying numbers alongside Matheson, which points to a trend rather than just a few outlying data points.
Unlike the majority of other Canadiens defencemen, Matheson is built for driving the play up the ice. Again, you could argue Guhle should be in the conversation, and rightfully so.
But as it stands, no other defenceman in the lineup can match Matheson’s vision and anticipation, not to mention his silky-smooth skating.
His skill set allows him to drive the play into the offensive zone due to his affinity for retrieving pucks in his own zone and doing it rather quickly.
He does lose control of the puck at times, and that has led to some heavy criticism, but as evidenced by his underlying numbers, the good definitely outweighs the bad when it comes to Matheson’s impact.
Simply put, Matheson makes his teammates better, his team better, and happens to lead the Canadiens in several crucial statistical categories, when healthy.
Unfortunately, health has been a significant sticking point this season, and Matheson is currently sidelined until the end of January.
But there’s no denying his style of play is in high demand around the league, and the Habs are no exception.
He may have only played 10 games for his new team, but Mike Matheson’s impact on the Canadiens roster is impossible to ignore.
All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick.