Two years ago, Mark Hunter took a gamble in the Ontario Hockey League draft by selecting an undersized Mitchell Marner in the opening round.
Marner was five-foot-six and 125 pounds soaking wet. Hunter, however, saw something in Marner, who finished second in OHL scoring this season with 44 goals and 126 points with the London Knights.
Fast-forward two years later, Marner is now hoping the Toronto Maple Leafs interim co-GM will take the same chance on him when the NHL Draft rolls around on June 26.
“He’s a guy that for sure I’d love playing for again. He’s taught me a lot about hockey, so for me to go back to his team in the NHL would be special for me personally,” Marner said. “We can’t control anything NHL scouts want to do. We just have to go sit in those [draft] chairs and wait our name to be called.”
Marner’s size continues to be a question mark for some NHL scouts. But his tremendous offensive skills make up for that lack of size.
Now standing five-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Marner is drawing comparisons to Patrick Kane — a player he’s idolized and watched growing up.
“Patrick Kane, I’ve known about him my whole life. He’s been my role model. He’s a guy I’ve always wanted to image my game after. He’s a special player. I love watching him. Every time he’s on, I’m trying to watch that game and learn from what he does.”
The decision to take a chance on Marner will be even more difficult if the Arizona Coyotes — who are selecting third in the draft — opt to take Boston College blue-liner Noah Hanifin at No. 3. The Leafs would be faced with the decision of selecting OHL scoring champion Dylan Strome or Marner fourth overall.
In Bob MacKenzie’s final prospect rankings, the TSN analyst has Marner ahead of Strome at fourth overall. The two have flip-flopped in the rankings all season long but MacKenzie noted the race between Marner and Strome is very close.