Pittsburgh Penguins: Mike Matheson Was One of League’s Best ‘Shooting’ Defenseman in 19-20

Photo Credit: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports

We continue our series of previewing the 2021 Pittsburgh Penguins by giving an analytical recap fo the previous season. Today will feature newcomer Mike Matheson.

The Pittsburgh Penguins knew they were going to have to shake things up this offseason. In each of the last two playoffs, they have only managed a lone victory each time out, so something was obviously not working.

So Jim Rutherford moved as big a name as they could have possibly moved without shaking up the true core, trading Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Mike Matheson and Colten Sceviour.

While moving Hornqvist made sense if they were trying to move money out of the Pittsburgh, they actually took on additional cap space in adding Matheson. Hornqvist sits with just three years left at $5.3 million per season. Matheson on the other hand has six years and $4.875 million per season remaining on his current deal.

The Penguins are obviously hoping that the former first round pick is more of a fit in Mike Sullivan’s more wide-open system.

After back-to-back 27 point seasons, Matheson saw his assist totals dip last year. He would finish with just 12 helpers (after 17 and 19 the last two years, respectively), while scoring eight times for an total of 20 points.

Matheson recorded two three point outings last season, against Montreal (12-29, G, 2 A) and Toronto (2-3, 3 A).

His offensive numbers weren’t enough to save him from his struggles in his own end, that ended up costing him a spot in the lineup come playoff time. Matheson only played two of the team’s four games come playoff time.

Matheson: 2019-2020 By The Numbers

The Penguins are getting a very offensive minded defenseman in Matheson, as we discussed back when he was traded to Pittsburgh. He hasn’t been great defensively by any stretch, but has proven over time to have one of the better shots from the point in the league.

Last season wasn’t any different for the now 26 year old Matheson.

Metric 

Number

Percentile Rank

Goals per 60

0.45

94.8%

Primary Assists per 60

0.26

46.1%

Points per 60

1.15

85.8%

Shots per 60

5.71

82.3%

Shooting %

7.87

93.5%

Expected Goals per 60

0.23

79.3%

Giveaways per 60

3.27

6.0%

Takeaways per 60

2.44

98.3%

When it comes to having the puck on their stick in the offensive zone, few were better than Matheson last season. 

Matheson’s goal rate and shooting percentage were both elite, with his volume shooting and P/60 were right up there as well. Even his expected goal rate was well above average. He was even among the best in creating turnovers with a 2.44 Takeaways per 60 mark.

That’s right about where that ends for him however, as for however many takeaways he created, Matheson still gave the puck up more .

Metric

Number

Percentile Rank

Corsi For %

49.91%

51.7%

Goals For per 60

2.93

81.0%

Goals Against per 60

3.09

8.6%

Goals For %

48.67%

44.8%

Expected Goals For per 60

2.07

24.1%

Expected Goals Against per 60

2.46

28.4%

Expected Goals For %

45.68%

18.5%

High Danger Chances For %

43.16%

12.1%

High Danger Goals For %

54.57%

71.1%

On Ice Sh %

9.42%

82.3%

On Ice SV %

90.11%

8.6%

Offensive Zone Start %

46.37%


Matheson turned the puck over a lot, and team’s were able to capitalize on it as his expected goal rate was among the worst in the league. 

His actual goal rate wasn’t much better, and his team was peppered with high danger opportunities while he was on the ice. Surprisingly enough, despite giving more chances in high danger areas, the Panthers controlled the amount of goals scored in the same area when Matheson was on the ice.

Season Outlook

The Penguins are hoping that with some work, and a change in system, that they unlock Matheson’s full potential. Despite having the second biggest contract in terms of Average Annual Salary (AAV) among Penguins’ defensemen - as well as being signed for the longest - they won’t have to lean on Matheson.

He will end up suiting up on the team’s third pair, as Brian Dumoulin and Marcus Pettersson both sit ahead of Matheson on the left side of the blue line. 

Matheson will have Juuso Riikola competing for playing time, but with the newcomers contract, as well as Sullivan’s reluctance to play the latter - it’s easy to see who is going to be on the ice more.

While looking at Matheson’s defensive metrics, its hard to feel like it’s going to be an improvement over the Jack Johnson expirement. The only difference may come offensively, as Matheson is a better skater with a proven shot from the point.

The Penguins’ themselves weren’t the best team defensively last season, but it may be fun to watch Matheson teamed up with playmakers like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin

He didn’t get much power play time last season, but with his shot, it’s fun to imagine what could happen with some time with the man advantage this year.

Follow` me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy and @SportBlogMurphy










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