Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner Should be Nominated for Hart Trophy

TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 13: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs congratulates teammate Ilya Samsonov #35 on victory against the Washington Capitals in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on October 13, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Capitals 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 13: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs congratulates teammate Ilya Samsonov #35 on victory against the Washington Capitals in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on October 13, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Capitals 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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Move over Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner is currently the Toronto Maple Leafs best player and should be a Hart Trophy nominee.

It takes a pretty special player and season to take over the title as the Toronto Maple Leafs best player from the reigning Hart Trophy winner, but that’s just how great Marner is playing right now. Whenever he’s on the ice, he has a chance to make an impact and his hard-work is paying off.

Marner and Matthews have been connected since their rookie year and this duo will hopefully have a long career together like the other current greats such as Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews or Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin. Obviously their playoff success is missing to be in the same category as those two duos, but they could be there before we know it.

When you look at the evolution of Marner’s game, it’s been on an upward path for years. He went from being a kid who was arguably too small to play in the NHL to a dominating force at both ends of the ice.

Don’t get me wrong, Matthews is still a fantastic player offensively and defensively, but Marner has stepped it up to a new level this year. Matthews has played in seven less games than Marner, so there may be somewhat of an asterisk beside it, but it’s still impressive that Marner has almost as many assists as Matthews does goals.

Marner is the Toronto Maple Leafs Best Player

In 67 games, Marner has 86 points (24 goals and 62 assists) while Matthews has 67 points (31 goals and 36 assists). We’ve always known that Marner is the better playmaker but his recent ability to score at a similar level as Matthews has really elevated his stock.

However, the biggest reason why I’d put Marner over Matthews at this current moment is because he’s been able to do it all facets of the game. Matthews doesn’t play the penalty kill, while Marner excels at it.

Not only is he an incredible penalty-killer but he also dominates 5v5 and on the power-play.

The ability to play in all situations makes Marner so special, but the fact that he’s elite at all three makes him one of the best players in the world. To compare how great Marner’s penalty-kill skills have been this year, he’s averaging a higher goals per 60 minutes on the penalty-kill than even-strength.

As of right now, Marner has 0.80 G/60 and 2.1 A/60 when he’s even-strength. Meanwhile, he has a 1.1 G/60 and 0.4 A/60 when he’s shorthanded (stats: hockeyreference.com).

Essentially that stat is telling you that Marner has a better chance at scoring a goal when he’s on the penalty-kill, compared to playing even-strength. That’s insane!

That may sound crazy but it makes a ton of sense. Marner has a fantastic ability to bat pucks out of mid-air, create turnovers on a nightly basis. It feels like once a game that Marner steals a puck at the defensive blue-line and has a short-handed breakaway.

Knowing that Marner has a better chance to score on the penalty-kill than even-strength gives the Leafs such an advantage. They can play more aggressive knowing that even if they take a penalty, Marner has a chance at going the other way and scoring.

Marner has a chance at finishing top-five in points but should also be a Frank Selke Trophy nominee based on his elite ability defensively. Not only should Marner be a candidate for the league’s best defensive forward but he should be considered for the Hart Trophy this year, based on his overall play.

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Connor McDavid is the clear runaway candidate for that award this season, but Marner’s name should be considered. He’s doing so much for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year that he deserves some credit, especially during Matthews’ “down year.”