Mitch Marner vs. Dylan Strome

All of that Mike Babcock stuff was fun, but the draft is just one month away and it’s time to start turning some of our attention back towards the Leafs’ picks, namely 4th and 24th overall.  If ever there was an “age-old debate” for this draft, it would be the debate about who is better between Mitchell Marner and Dylan Strome, two players very much on the Leafs’ radar at 4.  You probably already have some sort of idea in your head about who you would take between these two players.  But let’s try to look at the debate more closely and objectively to try and figure out once and for all who the better player is.

THE EYE TEST

Mitch Marner plays a very dynamic game rooted in high-end skating, vision, playmaking, and puck-handling.  He also has strong offensive instincts and a very accurate wrist shot to boot.  Marner is different from your prototypical undersized winger in the sense that he is very good defensively as well.  Marner is a zone-entry wizard that is as comfortable passing the puck off to a trailing teammate as he is carrying the puck in himself and he is very dangerous in transition.  Marner isn’t a one-trick pony either: he can play the cycle game effectively as well.  Overall, he plays a very flashy style that is easy to notice.  He’s a real play-driver.  Stylistically he plays a lot like Patrick Kane, but I wouldn’t say he’s quite as talented as him.

Dylan Strome is a 6″3′ two-way center that uses his strong vision and pin-point passing ability to create offensive opportunities.  That said, Strome also possesses a strong and accurate wrist shot that he is more than happy to use.  He has good hands and good offensive instincts.  He’s not a very good skater at all, but being 6″3′ should play a big role in negating that.  He sometimes lacks consistency at even-strength and looks a lot more like a second-line center at 5v5.  Strome is very confident on the powerplay though and shows glimpses of elite upside when he has more room to work with.  Overall, Strome plays a well-rounded game but he doesn’t look as dominant as Mitch Marner in either the defensive or offensive zone, and he doesn’t seem to drive offensive play as well either.

Those are my scouting reports on Marner and Strome and I think they speak for themselves.  Both have a lot of skill and play well-rounded games, but Marner’s talent is more obvious and in-your-face when you watch the two of them play.  Overall, I’d say Marner comes out on top over Strome in the eye test.

THE NUMBERS TEST

Marner_vs_Strome

No, I didn’t decide to color-code these guys.  If a row for a player is green, that means he won that category.  Coincidentally, Mitch Marner won all 13 categories used to numerically compare him to Dylan Strome.  A real clean sweep.

But there are some more numbers to look at.  How about how these players fared when the other top players on their team were out of the lineup?  For Marner that means Max Domi, and for Strome that means Connor McDavid.

When Connor McDavid was in the lineup, Dylan Strome averaged 2.08 points per game.  When Connor McDavid was out of the lineup, Strome averaged 1.45 points per game.  As you might expect, Strome puts up better numbers when McDavid is in the lineup.  But a 1.45 points per game without McDavid is pretty darn good, too.

As for Marner, when Max Domi was in the lineup Mitch averaged 1.87 points per game.  When Domi was out of the lineup…Marner averaged 2.78 points per game.  No, you didn’t read that wrong.  Marner’s numbers aren’t only better without Domi, but they are better by a very wide margin (albeit in a pretty small sample size, 11 games).

As for what the projection tools say, the very new and very cool Projection Project says Dylan Strome has an 88% chance of being an NHL player, with 4 of his historical comparables turning out to be elite, 2 of his historical comparables turning out to be 2nd-line players, 1 turning out to be a 3rd-line player, and 1 ending up a bust.  Strome’s historical comparables using this tool are Jason Spezza, Taylor Hall, Phil Kessel, John Tavares, Derick Brassard, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Kyle Wellwood, and Jordan Schroeder (as well as developing players Jonathan Drouin, Jack Eichel, and of course, Mitch Marner).  Pretty good company I’d say.

For Marner, the Projection Project says he has a 100% chance of being an NHL player with all 4 of his historical comparables (Jason Spezza, Phil Kessel, John Tavares, and Taylor Hall) turning out as elite.  So as good as Strome fared here, Marner still comes out on top.

Using another projection tool, the Prospect Cohort Success % (PCS%) measures a player’s likelihood of playing at least 200 NHL games, taking into account their age, height, point totals, and league. 

This tool says Dylan Strome has a 100% chance of playing 200 NHL games and came up with 4 historical comparables (Jeff O’Neill, Todd Harvey, Owen Nolan, and Brendan Shanahan).  The NHL points per game of his comparables was 0.70, which equates to 57.4 points over an 82 game NHL season.  This seems to align with the idea that Strome is very, very likely to reach his upside, but that his upside is closer to being a second-line center as opposed to a franchise cornerstone.

What this tool says about Marner is that he has an 80% chance of playing at least 200 NHL games, with his historical comparables being Doug Smith, Dan Quinn, Kyle Wellwood, Brad Gratton, and Steve Yzerman.  The NHL points per game of his comparables rounded out to 0.88, which equates to 72.16 points over an 82 game NHL season.  It should be noted that those numbers are inflated a little bit because of Steve Yzerman, but the fact that Marner compares to Steve Yzerman at all should be considered a significant plus.  Overall, these numbers align with the idea that Marner is a very safe pick and that his upside is probably higher than Strome’s.

Both of these players have absolutely fantastic numbers.  But, of all the different categories we measured, Strome only came out on top once (% chance of success using PCS%).  While almost all of Strome’s numbers are very close to Marner’s, Marner still comes out on top almost every time.  Strome is in the conversation, but Marner still takes the cake with relative ease.

THE DEBATE

Objectively speaking, Marner has Strome beat in both the eye test and the numbers test.  Like I just said, while Strome is in the same realm as Marner, Marner still edges him out in almost any category you can come up with.

Where Strome certainly does come out on top is the fact that he’s a 6″3′ center.  Marner is a 5″11′ winger (Marner can play center, but his playing style is more suited to the wing and his offensive game flourishes more there.  For all intensive purposes, let’s call him a winger).

Whether we care to admit it, this does shape our perceptions a good deal.  The common sentiment has been, “all things being equal, I’m taking the 6″3′ center over the 5″11′ winger”.  And I totally agree with that.  The thing is though, I’m not sure Marner and Strome really are equal.  Yes, Strome is right in the mix when you compare him to Marner, but at the end of the day Marner comes out on top in nearly every category.  They’re close to each other, but in my opinion, they’re not equal.

DISCUSSION

I’m not gonna do any political waffling here, I think Marner has to be considered the better player at this point.  Everything suggests that he is.  Sure, all things being equal, you take the 6″3′ center over the 5″11′ winger.  And while it’s close, I just don’t think they really are equals.  I think Marner has Strome beat by enough that I would prefer to take the 5″11′ winger over the 6″3′ center.  I think Marner can be a first-line winger.  Maybe not as good as Patrick Kane, but if he puts up around 65 or 70 points most seasons and drives offensive play, you can win with that player being the best winger on your team.

For Strome, I really think he ends up more as a strong second-line center.  The eye test suggests that he will be.  The numbers test is a bit more polarizing, but his numbers without McDavid and the PCS% tool would both suggest he’s not the franchise cornerstone that a lot of people have him made out to be.  I’ll take someone I think is a first-line winger over someone I think is going to be a second-line center.

CONCLUSION

I really like Mitch Marner, I really like Dylan Strome, and while he was excluded from this article because of the difficulties of comparing an NCAA defenseman with two OHL forwards, I really like Noah Hanifin too.  After McDavid and Eichel, these three players, for my money, have the strongest combination of upside and projectability to the point where I’d put these three in an exclusive category as the “second tier” of this draft class.  I wouldn’t be disappointed if the Leafs took any of these players 4th overall.  Heck, I even like Ivan Provorov and Mathew Barzal enough that, while I definitely wouldn’t take them 4th overall, I could live with it.  In any event, the Leafs are almost assuredly getting a very good player when they (presumably) pick 4th in one month’s time.

But as far as preference goes, I’m taking Mitch Marner 4th overall if the Coyotes haven’t taken him already.  My #1 preference is Mitch Marner who I think projects as a first-line winger.  My #2 preference is Noah Hanifin, who I think will be a #2 defenseman in the mold of a Jay Bouwmeester.  My #3 preference, and I say this as positively as I can because I still think he’s a great prospect, is Dylan Strome, who I think will be a very good second-line center in the NHL.

But, I could be wrong.  Such is the nature of the vast unpredictability of the NHL draft.

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  • TGT23

    Interesting the ES ppg was not included here, which was 1.16 to .98 for Strome. Even strength primary points per game was .955 to .793 for Strome. All situations primary points per game goes to Marner 1.54 to 1.43.

    Also, all those team % stats are massively skewedby McDavid.

  • giproc

    Whatever Hunter decides is good for me. He knows the OHL stock better than most.

    From my limited knowledge of the three players, I’d go Marner-Hannifin-Strome in that order and hope one of the very good (if not great) centres drops to #24.

  • CMpuck

    Leafs need to stock pile as high end Centers in their system. You can always trade for a guy like Kessel. Wingers shouldn’t be a priority. Can’t build a team through the wing, you can simply compliment a great core with one. They’re luxury pieces.

    Can’t look pass Strome’s position and size so would prefer him to Marner. Ditto for Hanifin.

          • CMpuck

            Simplifying things? It’s not like great wingers like say Kovalchuk, Hossa, Heatly in his prime, Vanek, Gaborik, St.Louis, Nash, Kessel…. are these talents available through trade? A short list is great wingers that don’t get traded.

            And you can take Marner having a better point production they slice that one stat 13 ways to show that Marner has a better ppg than Strome and call him dominate over Strome however that overlooks that Strome is physically better suited to have his talents translate to a man’s game.

            It’s funny that we read Pat Kane Pate Kane Pat Kane and overlook guys like Drouin who is a better comparable to Marner, and clearly Drouin is not quite the offensive machine he was in juniors. Marner is more likely a Skinner (talent available on the trade market btw) than Kane.

            What’s short sighted is to collect pieces that are sexy rather than build a team with pieces of a winning team. Do we take another winger next draft along with Marner and Nylander too? How smart was Yakupov at 1st overall for the Oil?

            The post Sundin era is basically proof that you can’t really have a worthwhile team until you have a 1C and ideally 2. Given the Leafs can’t move forward without a 1C and a 2C, Strome > Marner.

          • And do you not remember how massively expensive it was for those teams to acquire those wingers? Do you think Toronto should be paying the same price?

            The point is, the Leafs should draft whoever is the better player. If they think Marner is better, be my guest. Strome? Great – fine with me.

            Drafting for position and need is ridiculous, outside of some very rare circumstances and also when it pertains to goalies – drafting them is a whole other beast.

            To say that they should draft Strome over Marner because size, and then say yeah whatever we’ll just trade for a Marner-type later isn’t a realistic plan. You never know when those players will or won’t be available, and half the guys you mentioned ended up turning into nightmares for their teams.

            Take the best player, whether it’s a big centre or a small winger. Toronto isn’t good enough or deep enough to turn their nose up at anything.

          • CMpuck

            Again we’re talking context and the Leafs had Burke taken the original proposal of 7OA (Kadri) + Kaberle for Kessel instead of waiting to later overpay it’s not so massive a price.

            It’s about timing, elite wingers are luxury pieces, you can trade for them once you’ve built other more important positions through the draft (center and defense). It was a massive cost to Toronto because Burke had no business trading two 1sts when we should have been rebuild.

            Kovalchuck, Hossa, Nash, Gaborik, Vanek, St.Louis, how expensive were those players in the big picture really? Those deals make sense because teams that traded for them were already competitive. Elite wingers are finishing nails, not building blocks.

            I don’t think the Leafs have any business pass on a potential elite center or blueliner given we’re thin there in favor of a winger when we’re shopping Kessel (pretty much as good as skill wingers get), we already have Nylander and next year’s draft doesn’t look to have high end centers. How many years do you suggest waiting to address the most important position on the team?

            Position itself has value, different positions different value so MacKinnon can go 1st overall even though Jones is ranked at one and it’s the right call, Drouin, skilled winger over Jones is an embarrassment for the Lighting though.

            In terms of drafting, yes we can forget goaltending and trade value, as Mr Dangle calls it, mostly voo doo.

            Nightmare? Other than Heatly who is a nightmare? Most skill wingers turn out to be disappointments, why is Marner automatically Pat Kane not Drouin or Yakupov (talk about nightmare).

            Being undersized is a big obstacle to overcome, it’s naive to simply ignore that.

            Strome is the BPA between the two IMHO.

          • CMpuck

            Drouin and Yakupov are by no means “nightmares” I’m really confused by this statement. Drouin look ed great this year and Yak had pretty much the exact same P/60 as MTL’s Galchenyuk who everyone ranted and raved about how amazing he is. Yak has a lot of value imo.

          • CMpuck

            Drouin and Yakupov are by no means “nightmares” I’m really confused by this statement. Drouin look ed great this year and Yak had pretty much the exact same P/60 as MTL’s Galchenyuk who everyone ranted and raved about how amazing he is. Yak has a lot of value imo.

          • silentbob

            I agree with almost everything you said here, except the first couple lines.

            Its unrealistic to expect the Leafs to draft & develop every important piece over the next few years, so yes I think the Leafs should be paying those prices for a top player(s) when it makes sense for them to do so. And while I agree position shouldn’t be a consideration you can’t deny that it is easier to trade for or sign a top winger then a top center or D-man.

            As I’ve said before, the thing is BPA isn’t a static thing, what the individual (be that GM, Coach, scout or fan) values in a player is going to dictate who the best player is, and right now I think what Babcock values in a player will have a big affect on how the Leafs draft moving forward.

    • silentbob

      The Leafs need top tier talent. Period.

      Fewer teams win with a winger as their best player (though who is to say Strome, Marner or Hanifin will end up as the Leafs best player…) then centers & D-men. But you don’t pass on a player you deem to be the best option at a given pick because of his position. Thats as bad as picking a player you don’t deem the best option because of his position

  • silentbob

    First, its obvious that Shawn prefers Marner, thats that fine to each his own. But to say that Strome isn’t “a very good skater at all” is just mis-representing him as a player. http://thehockeywriters.com/dylan-strome-the-next-ones-nhl-2015-draft-prospect-profile/

    Personally I like Strome because he seems/appears to be about as skilled and talented as Marner, even if Marners numbers are a bit better that doesn’t mean his NHL numbers, preformance and impact will be greater. I also prefer a style of hockey that favors bigger players (I’d take a Ducks type of team over the Hawks…..just my personal preference).

    However we have a coach now, and I think it will ultimately come down to which player available at #4 suits Babcock best/Babcock wants more. Which one will fit what he wants to do more? He is a defense first coach and with both the Wings and Team Canada forced some of the most talented players in the world into a strict defensive system, while also allowing for talent/skill to come through. It doesn’t appear that sizes is a big factor for Babcock. I think ultimately the one who is more “coach-able”, less dependent on pure skill/talent, able to play & excel within a system etc… will be who they go for.

    Of course if the Coyotoes skip Hanifin then the Leafs pick becomes very, very easy.

    • TGT23

      I could probably link you to a half dozen articles that say Strome’s skating is his weak point. His top speed isn’t ideal and he knows his skating isn’t great. And full marks to the kid for seeing it and all reports are he is working on it.

      But, preference is preference.

  • Mapleleafs75

    If the Leafs brain trust are still debating between taking Strome or Marner, does Johnson’s play for Tampa help swing the tide to Marner as their selection at #4?

  • TGT23

    Normally, CMPunk is right, all things being equal you take the Centre with size… But I don’t think Marner and Strome are equal.

    For me, Marner is preferred. I think he’s a better player. I like his skillset better. I’ve spent some time watching Strome highlites and I don’t love what I’ve seen (not saying he isn’t VERY good, I mean in comparison to Marner ONLY). I’m no scout but I grade Marner ahead and I hope the Leafs grab him.

    • Gary Empey

      It is like comparing apples to oranges.
      Though if the defence can’t get the puck out of their zone it doesn’t really matter how good the forwards are.

      • FlareKnight

        It would be a lot harder call, but I’d support it just for the sake of debate and discussion.

        I’d be torn, but probably take Hanifin in that case. That kind of quality d-man is hard to ignore.

  • RiellyNylander

    Here”s how I look at this situation. Whenever you hear people talking about Marner all they say is he’s skilled, is great defensively, fast skater, etc. the only two negative comments you get about this kid is that he is small (which he really isn’t and this kid is growing every day. Besides look at most of the elite players in the NHL, and size isn’t holding any of them back) and secondly he is a rw, and he’s not the number one centre that Toronto desperately needs. After all who would you rather have; Tarasenko or an Eric Staal (I’m not saying marner is Taresenko or Strome Staal I’m just using this as a comparison. I’ve read countless scouting reports, and there is never anything negative besides those two points. As of Strome he had those numbers because he was playing as a number two centre, he is a slower skater than most, he might not be as skilled as Marner, etc. I’m not writing this to bash Strome as I think he is going to a great player, but when you put the two together for me Marner takes it.

    • silentbob

      Except he isn’t slower then most, & is just as skilled as Marner. If he was and wasn’t he would be ranked as highly as he is (3rd by some) by as many.

      The risk of taking Marner is that even if he becomes the next Kane, there is a chance we’ll watch Strome become the next Getzlaf in Carolina. Kane is a very good player, but I’d take Getzlaf any day.

  • RiellyNylander

    oliver ekman-larsson needs help now that keith yandle is gone. please give us marner!!! we are the toronto maple knights now! don’t ruin this for us. we’ve suffered enough please god!

  • TGT23

    if strome were 5’11 and marner were 6’3, this wouldn’t even be a discussion — it would be marner hands down. ever since sundin left, the leafs have been looking for a 1C with size, and while i agree that’s something important that the leafs could really use, i don’t think they’re in a position to be drafting for size/position over skill when they could use an upgrade at every position.

    if you don’t consider size or position, marner looks like the more skilled, more well-rounded player. if you have 2 otherwise equal prospects, you’d probably take the one that’s better defensively, and it sounds like marner is that guy (from what i’ve read, at least).

    big, offensive centres are great, but you can look at the tampa bay lightning to see that you don’t need size to be successful. their current top-2 centres are filppula and johnson (stamkos is playing on the wing), who are respectively 6’0 and 5’8. marner and nylander are both 5’11, and while they could both end up on the wing, they could still be successful at centre.

    • silentbob

      Getzlaf is currently leading all players in playoff scoring (1 more point the Johnson in 4 fewer games) while Perry is out pacing Johnson as well.

      Does that mean we should be putting a lot of value into size? Sure you an do well at 5’9, but not as well as you can at 6’4 and 6’3?

  • FlareKnight

    I think it’s fine to lean towards Marner when you break it down rationally. Plus I just like the fact that while Marner is the preferred guy here, it doesn’t involve mudslinging or saying that Strome isn’t a talented prospect.

    When it comes down to it, Marner does seem like the kind of pick the Leafs would go with. He’s got the speed and skill combination that we just need to keep adding. Plus he’s not a defensive weakness and puts in the effort there. And in the end you are taking the kind of hope like with Nylander that he can play the center role. 5’11 guys are centers in the NHL and it seems like he was forced onto the wing to make that super line with Domi (which might have actually hurt his numbers).

    In the end if we take one of Marner/Strome/Hanifin I’m happy with it. But, it does seem like Marner is a darn good choice.

      • Mapleleafs75

        Justin Fisher,

        Now that Babcock is part of the mix, he will probably have an opinion on who the Leafs pick at #4(as well as there other picks). If his opinion is valued by the management team, which of Strome, Marner or Hanifin, would you guess Babcock is leaning towards?

        Babcock seems to like guys with skill as well as being defensively responsible, so from what I’ve read here and other sites about the potential pick, I would think that Babcock would love Marner over Strome or Hanifin. JMO

        • silentbob

          If you look at the last team Canada, and we can assume he had some input there right?, it would seem that Babcock does value size, that team had very few players under 6’1.

          Babcock is a systems guy and I think he wants players who can/will buy into a play the system and their role more so then guys with great individual talent. I dunno if this is the case, but Marner may be a better defensive player but if he needs to do “his own thing” to be successful (kinda like Kessel), he probably isn’t as good a fit as someone who isn’t as good defensively but can/will thrive in a structured system.

        • CMpuck

          The idea that Marner is far superior to Strome defensively is a exaggerated, Strome at center has more defensive responsibilities than Marner on the wing yet Marner’s folklore trucks on.

          Can’t see Babcock wanting Marner, Babcock loaded team Canada with big centers, big wingers, PMD… team Canada’s makeup is basically what I’ve argue the Leafs should model.

          Babcock snubbed guys like Giroux and St.Louis, why would he prefer Marner?

          • silentbob

            While team Canada was a pretty big team, he also had Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Tatar, Nyquist, Kronwall…..with the Wings and none were huge players.

            Now you can argue that some of those guys were there before he was, and others were simply better options then bigger counter parts they could have drafted or acquired. An NHL isn’t going to have the same pool of talent to freely choose from.

            I think what we can/should take away is that size is a factor for Babcock, but not the most important (that also doesn’t mean its a non-factor that only comes into play “when everything else is equal). From what I know/can see it seems Babcock wants his players to play his system, his style his way, and that he gets results when he has players who do, while being able to let their talent shine.

            Unfortunately, without interviewing their coaches and teammates I dunno if we can find out who is a better fit for the Leafs between Strome and Marner, as this kind of stuff doesn’t show up on score sheets or scouting reports.

          • Gary Empey

            Let us not forget Hunter has a lot of input on this draft. In the two games I watched Strome hung around the blue line waiting for someone to get the puck up to him. Marner went back and chased to puck down.

  • In the czech news appears article about Zacha today, where he says, that Toronto is realy interested in him. Please, please, please do not chose him in draft, not him. I am the czech fan of MPL not czech fan of Zacha and his despotic father.

  • Great overview on two exciting players. If I may add something on Mitch Marner……..he most reminds me of Phil Kessel in terms of play but without the polorizing personality.

    He would also be my selection as he seems to be physically a late bloomer. I expect that at the draft his size ( height and weight) will change and change for the better.

    I’m an OIlers fan and was expecting to be picking fourth so I paid a lot of attention to both Marner and Strome.

    Watch his highlights from wne he was ten years old and you will see a very dynamic player that skates miles without tiring. The kid can flat out skate!