It appears Auston Matthews' ice time will increase slightly this season.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock told Matt Larkin of The Hockey News he expects Matthews and fellow centre John Tavares to both average roughly 19 minutes of ice time per game this year.
"I think each guy should manage his team the best way he can," Babcock said. "But there's no question, I think he and John, to be as good as they're capable of being, should be right around the 19-minute mark. Some nights they're going to be 18, some nights they're going to be 20, but I think that's where (Matthews is) the best, for sure. He's an important part. I think he's earned the right over time as he's gotten better and better to earn more and more.
"A big part of the game is you earning what you get. Your teammates respect that, and Auston's done a real good job in that area."
Matthews averaged 18:33 of ice time in 68 games during the regular season in 2018-19 and saw his ice time rise to 19:47 in seven playoff games. Babcock, however, received criticism for not playing Matthews more in the team's Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins, when he played 18:48.
Restricted free agent Mitch Marner led the Maple Leafs forwards in ice time last season with an average of 19:49 per game, followed by Tavares at 19:05 and then Matthews.
Matthews said after the season came to an end that he was open to having more ice time, but that the decision rested in Babcock's hands.
“I think everybody would love to be out there as much as possible,” Matthews said. “You have to share that ice time around, but I’m not deploying myself out there. I think that is something more that the coaches decide on and manage more than the players.
“We have so many great players. It’s a team game and you have to share that. Not going to whine about it. I’m going to go out there with the minutes I play and make the most of it.”
Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid led all NHL forwards in average ice time last season at 22:50 per game.