The Case for Drafting Mitchell Marner

Continuing with our week of debate over the fourth overall pick, today we’re looking at Mitch Marner, a prospect with ties to the Leafs by way of Mark Hunter, who originally drafted him to play for his London Knights in 2013.

Read past the jump for three key reasons Hunter may be wise to step to the podium and announce his name again this summer. 

He’s a scoring machine

To quote Kyle Reese from the first Terminator, “Marner scores so many goals. That’s what he does! That’s all he does!”

But seriously, Marner is an absolute killer on the scoresheet. He was just second in OHL scoring with 126 points this past season, and was narrowly edged by the also-draft-eligible Dylan Strome for the title, though Marner actually appeared in five fewer games. In terms of points-per-game he hit 2.00 on the nose and also ended up with a 46.84 Team Pt%, the latter representing the percentage your points account for all of the team’s scoring, a mark that was good for second among draft-eligibles only to McDavid (via CHLStats).

A big part of the debate between Marner and Strome will center around who creates more of their own offense, and I think that’s a fair concern. Strome had the privilege of having McJesus as a teammate, while Marner played for a heavy Knights squad which included strong draft-plus-one players in Domi and Dvorak. It’s going to be a tough decision, hence these sort of articles we’re putting together up until the draft.

Marner’s size gets brought up often in these discussions, but we know that the best predictor of future production is past production, so let’s not fall in to that trap. Plus he’s recently been listed at 5’11” and is still just 17-years-old, so the whole thing has been overblown anyway. These kids are in high school, still growing.

To put your mind at ease, some 5’11” forwards currently in the NHL: Crosby, Giroux, Datsyuk, Kane. 

Hit the mute button and watch this.

By all accounts, Marner is just an absolute wizard with the puck, raking in points at an obscene rate at every level to date, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to do so going forward. This past season he actually became the quickest 17-year-old to notch 40 goals in one campaign for London, getting there in just 52 games. 

The Leafs need everything

Marner can play center or wing, but he’s often overlooked for Strome who fits the bill of a big pivot the Leafs have had trouble acquiring since the Sundin years. But the Leafs are in the early stages of a build and they’re in no way looking for pieces to just plug a few holes in the lineup. If Marner is the best player available, you take him. 

There are style comparisons between Marner and Patrick Kane, and yes, the Leafs already have an elite-level winger in Kessel, but the turnover of this club might be staggering over the next few months so, again, it’s difficult to look at this roster with specific needs in mind. They need to start creating a new roster in general. 

He’s from the GTA

This is never a legitimate reason to draft a player, but wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from mittenstringer hit pieces if the Leafs select a good ol’ Ontario kid? 

Nah, who are we kidding? Steve Simmons would find some other reason to smear this poor soul. Welcome to the Leafs!

Previously in our “The Case for…” series:

The Case for Drafting Noah Hanifin

  • silentbob

    I think its a little unfair saying “thats all he does” in regards to Marner. Everything I’ve read about says/indicates that he plays a full 200 foot game. He plays on the PK, blocks shots, comes back low into his own zone, uses his stick well and is active on the break out instead of just waiting for a cross ice-passes like some other players we know who do 1 thing and “thats all he does”.

    He seems to me to more like Datsyuk or Gilmour (thats right, I went there) then Kane or Kessel.

    A plus of drafting Marner, it would probably take 3.63 minutes for the first “Max Domi to the Leafs” trade rumor to pop up.

    • HockeyYoda

      Finally, someone who has obviously watched Marner play. I read a piece on Strome just recently where the writer said Strome was fast. He clearly has not watched Stome play.

      I totally agree with your Datsyuk comparison. Marner is a Demon at tracking the play, intercepting passes, and forcing turnovers. I get why people who haven’t watched either one, see Strome’s size, that he plays centre and just say take Strome.

      I also get that Leaf fans don’t want another small skilled player like Nylander or Kadri. Well, all I can say to that is, then trade Kadri or Nylander and draft Marner. Because if you pass on Marner, this will be another one of those historical gaffs at the draft table for the Leafs.

  • Nothing against Marner but if you have two forwards of equal or comparable skill you always draft the guy who plays the more valuable position. I go back to the Taylor/Tyler debate. Hall is a dynamic player, no question but I believe you get more bang for the buck from Seguin. From most things I have read Marner projects as a NHL winger, albeit a very very good one so I would lean towards Strome simply because he plays the more valuable position. I don’t particularly care about size or where a player was born.

  • FlareKnight

    The Marner/Strome debate is just going to rage on until the draft. Will say now that I’m happy for either guy (if we don’t take Hanifin).

    It sure would have been nice if they let Marner play center all year. Not only because it seems like playing with Domi dragged him down (somehow), but it’d make things a whole lot easier.

    In the end the guy is clearly a fantastic player. He can score, he can pass, and he works hard in both ends of the ice. Be nice if he didn’t end his season injured (would have been back in the series if his team wasn’t beaten so quickly).

    In the end I tend to lean towards Marner. It’s easier to see his ceiling. He’s already got the speed and skill. It’d just be a bonus if he’d grow a few inches and toughen up so he’s more durable.

    • silentbob

      See I go the other way and would pick Strome.

      He is a smart, skilled player with well rounded offensive abilites who is a good skater who already plays center and is 6’3. Sure his two-way game isn’t at the same place Marners is, but you can teach defensive play, you can’t teach 6’3. I think its easier to see what he’ll be, with Marner there are more question marks.

      • FlareKnight

        Thus why I think you are ok going either way.

        I think the issues with Strome are the things you can teach, but you still have to teach them. His skating is average and needs to improve for him to be more impactful.

        Still a great option if you want to go that route. Speed and skill versus size and skill. A guy that slows the game down to his speed and can really distribute, or someone that will drive the play with speed.

        Both guys have their positive attributes. Just a question of what Hunter and company thing will work out as the highest ceiling.

        Both have question marks. Can Strome’s skating improve? How impactful is he on the top line without McDavid? Will Marner get taller? Will he play center at the NHL level?

        It’s all about what management thinks and the gambles they are willing to take.

        • silentbob

          I haven’t seen Strome’s skating pointed out as an issue. In fact in most reports I’ve seen about him mention his skating at one of his main attributes.

          • FlareKnight

            That’s pretty interesting since that’s been one consistent issue I’ve heard brought up. Lateral movement is ok, but speed isn’t close to the better skaters in the draft. Suppose it shows different people seeing different things.

          • Just riffing here, but if Strome’s skating was at all a concern, he wouldn’t be ranked so high. Marner is certainly the better skater, but that doesn’t mean Strome is a giraffe on skates (not that that’s what you were saying).

          • FlareKnight

            I’m not as sure how much of a given that actually is. Skating is one thing that can be worked on and improved. I could easily see the scouts dismissing that as a concern in the light of the point production he’s put up and his potential as a center. Even with the increased attention given to skating and speed these days, I don’t think an outstanding talent would drop due to that one element.

            Again not saying he’s Jason Allison out there or anything.

  • walkingman11

    I know it’s tempting to pick Marner or Strome if they are available at 4 but given the rebuild I’d rather trade down to aquire 2 first round picks in this years loaded draft.
    Rumour has it that Philly wants Hanafin bad so they get #4 and Leafs get #7 and 26.
    Get another first rounder in a Phaneuf trade and all of a sudden you have 4 first rounders in a strong draft.

  • Bertly83

    marner’s height isn’t the problem so much as it’s his weight. he’s alrady 5’11 and still growing at 17 years old. i’m not concerned about it. he’s just very light in weight. needs to gain 20 pounds or more in the next few years to be closer to giroux/crosby/kane’s weight. if he can gain the weight, he’s the better player over strome. strome is very good to but he’s the safer pick while marner is the more electric/dynamic player. please give us nylander-marner-matthews in the future god!!

  • HockeyYoda

    Marner hands don’t just translate to good pick skills, he’s one of the best takeaway guys I’ve seen in the OHL. This combined with his speed leads to a lot of turnovers on the back check and in the neutral zone. A note with his goal scoring ability, his shot isn’t incredibly hard but it is accurate and he has an incredible awareness of where to put the puck to fool the goalie. In the video there were a couple examples but I’m a knights season ticket holder and I got to see many of his goals and there’s times where he would just find holes and make goalies look stupid. He also seems to change his release point to fool goalies which I haven’t really seen many players do at any level. At 1:10 you get a glimpse of it.