Dale Hunter: Why Leafs’ Babcock will like Mitch Marner

The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies really took it to Mitch Marner physically, taking hard shots and shoving him around all game long. Marner not only absorbed the abuse, but turned around and collected four points against them.

The offence is obvious. The London Knights‘ 19-year-old superstar is bludgeoning opponents with it.

Mitchell Marner has 13 points in three MasterCard Memorial Cup games, but that’s not the reason — at least not the only one — Knights coach Dale Hunter believes Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will enjoy sending the kid out onto NHL ice.

“He kills penalties for me. He blocks shots. He does the little things, too, that a guy like Mike would like because that’s what coaches like,” Hunter told Hockey Central at Noon Thursday. “That their best players can also block shots, kill penalties, do the little things to win. He’ll do that. He’s a character kid that way.”

Hunter’s brother, Mark Hunter, drafted Marner to the Leafs fourth overall in 2015. The undersized, over-skilled forward didn’t make Toronto as an 18-year-old, but Dale Hunter says a third year in the Ontario Hockey League has made the prospect “a lot stronger” and improved his leadership skills, giving him a greater chance at spending 2016-17 with the pros.

“If he can make the Leafs, that’d be awesome. That’s part of our game here,” Hunter said. “He has a real, real, real, real good shot.”

Fo’ reals.

“We’re happy for the kid. He deserves it. He’s been good right from when he was 16 — he was playing all the time,” Hunter went on. “He had [59] points his first year.”

Hunter’s Knights will try to win the Memorial Cup Sunday in what could be Marner’s final game as a junior.

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