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: