Leafs’ Mitch Marner is proving he deserves to be in the NHL superstar conversation

Photo credit:Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Filipe Dimas
11 months ago
After watching Auston Matthews score 60 goals, win the Hart and back-to-back Rocket Richard trophies last season, it seems many have forgotten just how talented Mitch Marner is. When the conversation of NHL superstars arises, most people are quick to dismiss the Maple Leafs’ winger – often suggesting that he simply collects assists off the goal-scoring prowess of his usual linemate.
Three games into the 2023 playoffs, and Mitch Marner is quickly proving that he deserves to have his name mentioned alongside the upper-echelon of the NHL’s elite. At the end of the regular season, both fans and analysts alike were quick to label Marner as the team’s MVP this year, putting up 99 points alternating between the first and second lines, all while being one of the team’s most reliable penalty killers.
When the playoffs started, one of the major questions was whether the Leafs’ stars would show up, or if Tampa’s physical play was capable of once again keeping them off the scoresheet for long stretches of time. One week later and Mitch Marner not only leads the series, but leads the entire NHL with eight points through only three games.
Superstar athletes are known for their ability to turn it up another notch when the games matter most, and Marner has thus far shown he’s capable of doing exactly that. How many times have we seen players like LeBron James or Tom Brady seemingly single-handedly decide their team won’t be losing that day, reaching another gear of excellence during a must-win playoff matchup? Mitch Marner appears to have that same fire in him right now, determined to be the reason why Toronto experiences playoff success for the first time since he was six years old.
The entirety of Toronto’s big six of Marner, Matthews, Nylander, Rielly, O’Reilly, and Tavares have shown up in a big way so far in this series, with each averaging over a point per game through three contests. At the center of this core’s success stands Mitch Marner, who has combined for a goal with every single one of them – assisting on goals from five different goal-scorers while scoring two himself. It’s become a safe assumption that when Marner has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, it will find its way into the back of the net – the only question is whose stick it will bounce off along the way. 
Should this scoring pace keep up, Marner will no doubt be heralded as the local hero that he seems to fantasize about being – that same desire often being criticized for past playoff performances when he tried too hard to play hero-puck, seemingly insistent on doing everything himself. With maturity, experience, and a roster overloaded with depth now on his side, Toronto’s Mitch Marner seems to have finally found the balance necessary to flip the switch and become the next superstar of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For five straight years now Mitch Marner has averaged well over a point per game during the regular season, the previous two years he was listed as the league’s first team All-Star at right wing. Unsurprisingly, the biggest knock against him was the lack of playoff success, the lone factor keeping his name out of the discussion of the league’s top five or even top ten most talented players. While individual accolades are wonderful, team success is ultimately the factor by which every star athlete is measured. 
Should Marner’s current dominance continue, especially if it leads to Toronto going several rounds deep into the postseason, his superstar status will become undeniable. The beautiful irony of it all lies in the notion that the switch seems to have been flipped because Marner no longer appears to want to be the hero, he is simply doing whatever it takes to help his team win – and that’s exactly why he’s become Toronto’s hero through the first three games. 

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