Between winning the Draft Lottery two weeks ago and the Toronto Marlies’ playoff run, it’s easy to forget that the Leafs have a grocery list of quality prospects still playing junior hockey. None of those guys, however, stand out quite as much as Mitch Marner, who has been nothing short of lights out for the London Knights in his first and likely only post-draft season. Tonight capped off a season of hard work, as the Knights completed their sweep of the Niagara Ice Dogs and won the J. Ross Robertson Cup in just 18 games.
While the Knights had some trouble with the Owen Sound Attack in their first-round series, the team didn’t look back after their series-clinching Game 6. after that, London swept the quarterfinals, semifinals, and actual finals, culminating a 1-0 win tonight. Marner had one of his weakest offensive performances of the postseason, assisting on the lone goal.
We say “weakest” not because he played poorly tonight, but because of how dominant he’s been all playoffs.
Marner, who finished second in OHL scoring to linemate Christian Dvorak with an absurd 116 points in 57 games and won the Rod Tilson Trophy for league MVP, somehow got even better in the playoffs. The 2015 4th overall pick finished the postseason with 44 points in 18 games; more than anybody this season and the 6th-most in league history. Of players to play at least 16 games (4 sweeps in a 7/7/7/7 format), Marner has the third highest points-per-game ever in an OHL playoff run.
Winning both the regular season and playoff MVP honours is a rare event. Since 1999, that honour has gone to Brad Boyes (2002, Draft+2), Corey Perry (2005, Draft+2), Justin Azevedo (2008, Draft+2), and Connor McDavid (2015, Draft Year).
There has been much debate as to what Marner’s immediate future holds. Many in Toronto feel that he’s not physically ready for the pros while others feel that there isn’t anything to learn in junior. Both statements might very well be true, but ultimately, it may be easier to fix the former than it would be to deny the latter. With little offensive depth on Right Wing, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see Marner play (and excel) on one of Toronto’s top two lines next year.
Also on the team was 2014 Leafs draft pick JJ Piccinich. While expectations aren’t quite as high for the American Winger, he still played relatively well, scoring 12 points in 18 games.
The Knights will now take a week to celebrate and practice before returning to the ice for the 2016 Memorial Cup in Red Deer, Alberta. The Rebels will host the tournament of Champions, which will include themselves, the Knights, and the winners of the QMJHL and WHL playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how the Knights perform in the big event; not only do they have the talent, but they have someone to win for as well.
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) May 12, 2016