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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Marner is crazy good at hockey and let’s celebrate that

Earlier this week I posted a piece highlighting my favourite Jake Gardiner GIFs that I tweeted out over the course of last season. I had a lot of fun with it and since it’s the middle of July and there is nothing else to talk about I decided to put together a similar piece, this one focusing on Mitch Marner. Keep in mind I only started making these clips in January, so all of these are from then on. Fair warning, most of my GIFs are process oriented and often don’t result in goals because you can go to YouTube for those.

Embarrassing some poor Montreal Canadien on a zone entry

I have no clue who the backchecking forward was for the Canadiens here, but RIP to him. He comes all the way across the ice in order to pressure Marner only to get absolutely embarrassed. The Canadien forward has a lot of speed and Marner seemingly has nowhere to go, so he stops and lets the pressuring forward go right by him while sliding the puck through his feet. In doing so, Marner also backs the defenceman up and now has space up near the blue line to make a play. He draws everyone toward him in the middle of the ice and proceeds to make a backhand pass to Matt Hunwick who is skating into the area where Marner left the remains of the poor Canadien who thought he had Marner on the ropes just seconds ago. Hunwick takes a long range shot which ultimately doesn’t turn into anything, but what a crafty sequence by Yung Mitchell.

Literally skating circles around the Canadiens

This is from the same game as the first clip, but this one results in a goal. Marner picks up the puck skating out toward the blue line in the offensive zone and he has speed. He then skates all the way out to the blue line while curling to the middle, where he continues to cross over and gain speed. The defenders are flat footed, but they keep him to the outside decently well. Just when it looks like Marner is going to take another lap behind the net, he finds JvR alone in the crease on the far post for a literal tap in. I remember watching this and being in disbelief that this was a 5v5 situation because Marner’s speed had the Canadiens totally flat footed and collapsing around their own net, yet he still found JvR for a wide open net.

PK vs. the Canadiens

This clip also comes from the same game against the Canadiens and I’ve included it mostly because I’d like to see a lot more of Marner on the penalty kill in the future. In this clip he comes flying off the bench while the Canadiens sloppily try to break out of their zone. Marner picks up on their struggles and gets aggressive, using his speed to put pressure on the puck carrier in the neutral zone. He not only successfully nullifies their breakout attempt, but he steals the puck himself and creates a good chance for himself in which he nearly beats Carey Price on the blocker side. I would love to see one penalty killing unit have Kasperi Kapanen with Marner on the other. Their speed could potentially be extremely effective on the PK.

More PK Marner? More PK Marner!

Again Marner uses his speed to disrupt the power play breakout. Thomas Greiss is being a little too casual with it and Marner comes flying toward him, forcing him to try to saucer pass it past him. He knocks the puck out of the air and proceeds to pin it against the boards, battling with the Islanders and effectively killing valuable time off the clock.

Heads up play results in a drawn penalty vs. the Red Wings

This sequence began with the Leafs having extended zone time, resulting in the Wings players on the ice being exhausted. They think they’ve finally bought enough time to make a quick change by dumping the puck into the neutral zone, but Marner has different ideas. He quickly grabs the puck and slams it right back down the Wings’ proverbial throats. He makes a drop pass to JvR and heads right to the net, forcing a tired Justin Abdelkader (who didn’t get a chance to change because he was on the far side of the ice) to take a penalty on him. This is just a really heads up play by Marner which results in his team getting a chance on the power play.

Spin-o-rama as the last man back on the PP

This kid isn’t short on confidence, in case you ever doubted that. He’s a 19-year-old rookie quarterbacking one of the best power plays in the league and he’s pulling off moves like this with nobody behind him to bail him out in case of disaster. He’s not afraid to do this because there doesn’t seem to be a doubt in his mind that he won’t succeed and, in this case, he totally evades the forechecker (Frans Nielsen) and makes a quick little saucer pass through the neutral zone. Over the span of the season I learned to anticipate something pretty every time Marner picked up the puck with speed in his own zone on the power play.

Backcheck, forecheck, paycheck

This is a clip I’m sure Mike Babcock showed the entire team over and over again as an example of defence leading to offence. Gardiner, sensing he has Marner for support right behind the puck carrier, does a good job closing the gap at the blue line and dislodging the puck from the Islander forward’s stick. Marner is right there to scoop the puck up and send it around the back of the net to Connor Carrick who has time and space to survey his options in order to exit the zone with possession. As Carrick corrals the puck and gives it to a curling Tyler Bozak, Marner has curled up the middle because Bozak has vacated it in order to get open on Marner’s right wing. Marner comes flying up the middle just as Bozak turns and hits him with a pass, leading to a shot on goal for Marner. This is some very good work all around by the Leafs to nullify the Islanders rush and turn it into a shot for themselves, but Marner is the main driver of this particular sequence.

Finding open areas in the offensive zone

These two clips are from the same game and both display the same particular skill of Marner’s. He’s very good at sliding into the “soft areas” in the offensive zone at just the right time. Marner sees his teammate surveying the ice for options and the defenders getting caught watching the puck, so he cruises out to the top of the circle in the middle of the ice. The defenders are hesitant to follow him up there, or don’t notice him, and elect instead to concede the shot by standing in front of their goaltender while covering nobody.

One-touch backhand bump pass

This is another creative little play Marner pulls off every one in a while. As he skates through the faceoff circle, JvR hits him with a pass from the corner, but Marner has very little room. Marner realizes that Bozak does have some space and he is right behind him, so he simply bumps the puck back to him as soon as it hits his blade. Bozak then sends it out to Gardiner who is open at the point for a shot.

Keeping the puck in the offensive zone sans stick

This one is just hilarious and incredible at the same time. First Marner breaks his stick over Stars defenceman John Klingberg’s stick and Klingberg sees this as an opportunity to skate the puck out of the zone himself. Marner hasn’t given up though (because he never does) and he stays right with Klingberg until he closes him off at the boards around the hashmarks. He hits Klingberg hard into the boards and kicks the puck away from him, resulting in Bozak gaining possession of the puck. What a beautiful little ball of energy Mitchell is.

Trying really hard to tie the game against the Blues

These two plays took place within minutes of each other with the game tied at one and under ten minutes to go in the third period. Marner was on a mission to score as evidenced by the second clip. In the first one he makes a nice play after a give and go with Bozak sends him in alone. He makes a move similar to the one he made on that highlight reel goal on James Reimer, but the puck skips over his stick at the last second. The second one is pure desperation. Jake Allen is handling the puck in his crease and Marner comes flying in showing zero regard for anybody’s safety, falling/diving into the crease trying to block Allen’s pass. Neither play results in an actual goal, but he’s clearly doing anything in his power to get his team the lead and I appreciate the effort very much.

Creating something out of nothing

Morgan Rielly is re-grouping with the puck as Marner comes off the bench and flying through the neutral zone looking for a pass. Rielly gives him his wish and Marner is in on a one on two versus Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo. This is not typically a dangerous situation as one on twos rarely turn into anything, especially when it’s against two very good defencemen. Marner, of course, still makes something happen by taking a shot and then stepping around Pietrangelo to go for the rebound. He gets his stick on it on the backhand, but it goes right through the crease. This kid can make any situation exciting, just get him the puck.

Protecting his friend, who is much larger than him, from a bad (corsi) guy 

This is the kind of thing that casual fans remember forever. With three seconds remaining in a frustrating loss to the lowly Sabres, Matthews is getting into it with Rasmus Ristolainen when Marner decides that just isn’t going to happen. He tackles Ristolainen, who has four inches and thirty-some pounds on him. Mitchell isn’t scared of anything.

This clip, from earlier in the same game, is Marner once again bullying Ristolainen. Marner takes the puck from behind his own net, flying out of his own zone and over the red line before dumping into Risto’s corner and proceeding to hammer him into the boards. Poor Risto.

This is also from that game lol

I’m almost surprised that Ristolainen didn’t retire after this game citing “Marner is a big jerk,” as his reasoning. This time it’s a goal which Marner scores off of Risto’s foot after breaking Robin Lehner’s ankles. This goal brings a tear to each of my eyeballs.

No-look breakaway pass to Bozak

Unfortunately this didn’t turn into anything because the pass was just out of Bozak’s reach, but it caught my eye nonetheless. He gets the pass at the blue line and doesn’t look to have any options. Somehow Marner knows Bozak is behind the defence though and he spins to the backhand sending a pass up to him, just missing Bozak for the clear break. The vision on this guy is really something to marvel at.

Dancing with Brendan Dillon

Marner goes from full speed to stopped to cutting to the middle backward to spinning back forward and getting a quality shot on net in about two seconds. That is some beautiful footwork and I really wish that went in the net.

Doing good stuff vs. the Kings

JvR starts this off with a really nice pass just before going around the net, which tends to cross up both the defence and the goaltender. Marner follows that up by making a one touch pass to the far post off of Bozak’s foot and in. That is almost impossible to stop from both the defender’s and goaltender’s standpoint.

This is a set play that this line used on a fairly regular basis this year and it’s pretty simple, yet effective. The basic concept is the Leafs get possession of the puck in their own end and instead of having to work so hard to both exit your own zone and enter the offensive zone, Marner just takes off toward the offensive end and the puck is fired down off the end boards in his general area. He usually gets it and, just like that, the Leafs have the possession of the puck in the offensive zone.

This made the cut simply for that stick wave that made both Doughty and Quick bite extremely hard. Unfortunately, Gardiner couldn’t get the puck up and over Doughty/Quick and then Marner fanned on the backhand. This had the potential to be such a glorious OT winner. Also, three on three forever.

Again with the fancy footwork

First he toe drags Selke candidate Ryan Kesler as he’s pivoting to backward skating and then, while still skating backward with the puck, he finds Bozak open in the slot. Bozak puts it on net and Nazem Kadri cleans up the garbage, so Marner ends up with a secondary assist on this, but it’s one of the prettiest assists you’ll see.

Quick release goal vs. the Hurricanes

Remember earlier when I was talking about Marner sneaking into the “soft areas” at just the right time? Here is another example of that, only this time he shows off his quick release on the one-timer which somehow beats Cam Ward. He’s really good at making himself available without drawing attention to himself.

Four on four primary assist on a Morgan Rielly goal vs. the Bruins

There are a few things to unpack on this one. First of all, that pass by JvR is reminiscent of the pass against the Kings. That is followed up by Marner making a spectacular spinning play to the backhand in tight and getting robbed by Tuukka Rask. Rielly is stopped on the rebound, but Marner gets that rebound and makes a beautiful backhand pass back to Rielly who has snuck in alone on Rask and finally puts the puck in the net.

This play comes a couple of minutes later, but now the Leafs are on a five on three. Marner gets the puck in the slot and gives off the perception that he’s going to shoot, so Adam McQuaid goes down to block the shot, which is what Marner was waiting for. Marner then holds the puck and drags it into the middle, closer to the net and tries to go blocker side on Rask but is unsuccessful.

Again Marner dances into the zone, draws three defenders to him and then feeds JvR down low, who feeds Matt Hunwick who is cruising into the slot. Marner is really good at buying time and space for his teammates and then getting them the puck when it looks like he’s tried to do too much.

Mitchell has eyes on the back of his head confirmed

This is a very subtle one, but the result is a William Nylander goal. It looks like Bozak is just trying to get the puck to Marner, but Marner somehow knows Nylander is flying through the neutral zone where this pass is headed so he lets it go through his feet. Maybe this was an accident, but it looks like he moves his left skate out of the way in order to let the puck get to Nylander.

Marner has seen the Mario Lemieux vs. Ray Bourque goal

I love this play, but it’s very rare that a player gets the opportunity to use it. The forward is right on the defender’s heels, who is trying to pivot, but can’t because he if he pivots the wrong way the forward flies by him. Once the defender, Dimitri Kulikov, commits to pivoting one way, Marner flies by him on the other side. It reminds me of this goal you might have seen once or twice.

Last one: toe drag during game one of the playoffs

Marner was relatively quiet during the Leafs’ first round loss to the Capitals, likely due to the fact that he apparently had mono, but I had to include one clip from the series. The toe drag on John Carlson was very pretty, but unfortunately didn’t result in a goal. Of course, Marner also scored the first goal of the series, but you can find those highlights anywhere.

Congratulations to all the people who made it all the way through this unnecessarily long piece, your reward Marner induced happiness.

 

    • Leefer16

      In a similar vain, in one game during Mitch’s last year with the Knights, he was exiting the defensive zone on the left wing when 3 opposing players converged on him at the faceoff circle. Mitch had nowhere to go, he was either going to get hammered or he was going to cough up the puck. Instead, he gave himself a third option, he curled and passed the puck off the boards. To himself. The 3 opposing players, from the Kitchener Rangers if I recall, were left looking for their cups after that move. In my mind, one of the prettiest moves ever. A video of the move was posted on here a year or so ago – I’d love to see that move one more time.

  • Schtickontheice

    Dylan, thank you. What a wonderful after work treat! I love the way he plays the game. So smart.
    I had a recurring nightmare that he had been traded for a veteran RHD. Kept waking up in a cold sweat. Marner, Hyman and Brown have one thing in common. They never give up. How can you not love that? And Marner has skill to burn! Can’t wait for Year 2.

  • lukewarmwater

    I didn’t see much of Marner in his junior days but was memorised by his awe inspiring playoff run in his last year of junior. The kid truly has great skills with the puck. His ability to see the whole ice and some of his passes are reminiscent of the great one. Mitch will only get better and better. The skill set on this young leaf is at a 10. I too agree that he is always thinking while on the ice and has a tenacity that most players simply don’t have.

  • FlareKnight

    Just another occasion to say…holy crap we got some fantastic young stars on our team.

    Marner really is amazing and it is nice to see that once more. He really had an amazing rookie season. So darn good at moving the puck, gaining the zone, and creating opportunities.