Mitch Marner: The Phil Kessel Replacement


Every week through the off-season we will be updating you on the development, potential and realistic expectations for key Toronto Maple Leafs prospects, with up-to-date stats, analysis and scouting reports.

It finally happened, the draft came, the draft went, and the Shanaplan is real.

This will be the first of a series looking specifically at the Toronto Maple Leafs 2015 Draft Class and wow, at first glance did they ever get some steals in the middle and late rounds. It all started at pick No.4 and London Knights C/RW Mitch Marner, also affectionately known as “The Magician”.

Getting To Know: Mitch Marner

Age: 18

Position: Right Wing (Leafs think he can play Center in the NHL)

Shoots: Right Handed

Height / Weight: 5ft11 / 160lbs

League / Team: Ontario Hockey League (OHL) / London Knights

Drafted: 4th Overall, 1st Round, 2015 NHL Entry Draft

Contract Status: Unsigned, Leafs have until the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to sign him to an Entry Level Contract, however he cannot play in any regular season games until then – so no 9 game trial until he signs his 3yr ELC.

Mitch Marner is an offensive dynamo, full speed ahead, puck magician of a scoring machine. Was that enough descriptors for you? The kid can think the game at an insanely elite level, to the point where scouts often refer to him as a “Predator” on the fore-check as he really hunts down defensive gaps to get the puck.

If you want scoring, Mitch Marner can do it from pretty much anywhere, with a deceptively quick and lethally accurate wrist shot and penchant for finding open space around the net, Marner is an absolute offensive weapon that Mike Babcock will be more than happy to use sooner than later.

Mark Hunter is universally praised as an astute hockey evaluator, and was the one to draft him into the OHL and on to Hunter’s London Knights.

As such, Hunter knows Marner’s game in a pretty intimate level and it seemed like a shoe in that the Leafs would take the shifty forward if he was available at 4th overall. Mitch Marner has an incredibly high ceiling as an offensive super-force in the NHL, time will tell if the Leafs can develop him properly so that he can reach it.

"A dynamic offensive forward that backchecks hard and establishes his presence through playing smart, puck-possession hockey. A very quick skater gifted with great hands and hockey sense. Battles hard in all three zones and shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the puck to the back of the net; an unselfish player. Embodies the definition of a dynamic number-generating machine who makes the players around him better. –"

If you break a hockey players game down into some easily rank-able categories, say Shot, Skating, Hockey IQ, Compete Level and Potential, this is how Marner would rate;

Shot – 3.5/5

Mitch Marner has a quick and deceptive wrist shot as stated above, he also has the hand-eye coordination to have a deadly one-timer in tight. His slapshot leaves some to be desired, but will improve as he adds more mass to his frame.

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He can score from anywhere on the ice, but needs to add some more MPH to his shots to continue his torrid OHL scoring pace into the pro level. He can put the puck anywhere he wants to from almost anywhere below the circles, but does score a significant amount of his goals in tight – areas that may not be available to him at the Pro level until he bulks up.

Skating – 5/5

Forwards, backwards, strafing – it doesn’t matter how, you want someone to be able to fly down the wing and beat defenders wide? Marner can do that. Need someone to cut inside once they cross the blue line, burning their defenders as they crash the net? Marner can do that. Mitch Marner compares to

Phil Kessel here when it comes to that extra gear that he can suddenly shift into throwing defenders off and creating defensive mismatches that his giant hockey IQ can take advantage of.

Exceptional creativity with poise and passing skills that allow him to create offence quickly. He’s elusive and very hard to keep in check because he is constantly in motion. He plays the game in the moment and is quickly responding to opportunity. The best winger in the draft. – Craig Button, TSN

Kid can flat out fly.

Hockey IQ – 4.5/5

Mitch Marner scouts how the D is set up before receiving the puck, then he exploits the weaknesses in the defensive coverage and creates all kinds of chaos for his opponents. He is an unselfish player and will draw defenders to him, creating prime scoring opportunities for teammates.

Aggressive on the fore-check and a master of seeing the play before it develops, combined with his elite skating allows for him to make some truly magical plays. Although always one of the first forwards on the back-check, his defensive zone reads still need a little work, but he is further along defensively than most other elite scorers at his age.

Compete Level – 5/5

This kid wants the puck and he wants it in the other teams’ net as quickly as possible.

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This indomitable will to score and to win lead to him being the first on the fore-check, the first back on the back-check and the guy you want on the ice in the last minutes of a game.

Don’t confuse his goal lust for selfishness though, if passing the puck off to a teammate is the better play towards a W, then that is the play he’ll make. Whatever it takes to win.

Potential – 5/5

His ceiling is very, very high. Elite scoring 90+ point winger high. With his skating and hockey IQ levels being so through the roof good, he already has most of the tools he’ll need to succeed at the NHL level, adding another 20lbs to his frame will go a long way to allowing him to continue to play his game style at the Pro level.

With Mark and Dale Hunter owning the London Knights, when – not if – when he is sent back to start next season he will be developed exactly as the Leafs want. The tools are all there, the Leafs just need to get the most out of him now.

NHL Upside: Mitch Marner

Upside: Elite Goal Scoring Forward – Capable of 30+Goal 80+Point seasons

Realistic Projection: 1st Line Goal Scoring Winger, 25+Goal 60+point seasons

NHL Ready: 2016-2017 – Unless sending him to Europe to develop is an option, he will only benefit from one more season in the CHL, not two.

NHL Player Comparable: Most pundits suggest Patrick Kane, but his game bears more similarity to Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, especially since the Leafs’ have said they see him as a center.

As always feel free to comment below, or let’s get the conversation going on twitter, give me a shout @TorrinBatchelor and tell me why Marner will be good, or why he is going to suck. Hockey debates are the best kind!

Next: Leafs Draft: Rounds 2-7 Recap

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