Knights’ Mitch Marner named CHL player of the year

Mitch Marner talks with Gene Principe about winning the CHL player of the year award, chemistry with his teammates and being one win away from taking the MasterCard Memorial Cup.

RED DEER, Alta. — Mitch Marner’s dad built him a display case for his accomplishments while he was still playing minor hockey. His latest trophy might need its own stand.

The London Knights forward was named Canadian Hockey League player of the year on Saturday — a trophy so big in size that two people had to carry it for Marner when it was time for him to take pictures with it.

"My dad got (a trophy case) made when I won my first one, it was special at that time with little trophies," said Marner. "It’s special to be named to this, (but) I don’t know if this one will fit in the trophy case."

The 19-year-old Marner, who the Toronto Maple Leafs selected fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, tore up the Ontario Hockey League this season, and has been picking up awards with ease.

He was named the OHL’s most outstanding player in the regular season after producing 39 goals and 116 points in 57 games. He followed that up by winning the OHL playoff MVP with 44 points in 18 games, leading his Knights to a spot in the 2016 Memorial Cup.

Marner, from Thornhill, Ont., has played the entire season on a line with Matthew Tkachuk and Christian Dvorak. All three broke the 100-point mark for London, finished 1-2-3 in playoff scoring and have been unstoppable at the Memorial Cup. He believes the award wouldn’t be his without their help.

"Those two could be on the trophy just as much as I can," said Marner, who has 13 points in three games at the Memorial Cup — just three off the tournament record.

Connor McDavid earned the award last season.

"There’s a lot of big names on (the trophy), but like I said all year it wouldn’t be possible without the players and the coaching staff. Without those guys on my (line) who knows what would have happened?"

Dvorak says playing with Marner has made hockey an easier game to play.

"He can do anything out there, makes a lot of plays, knows where we are on the ice without even looking," said Dvorak.

"Awesome player, not only finding people but being able to bury it too. You can rely on him in all situations," added Tkachuk.

Marner beat out Dryden Hunt of the Moose Jaw Warriors and Francis Perron of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for the honour.

When he called his parents to tell them the news, they didn’t know what to say.

"They were speechless," said Marner. "They are the reason why I am here today. It’s crazy what they’ve done for me. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them."

The CHL gave out nine other awards on Saturday.

Mississauga’s Alex Nylander won rookie of the year, Everett’s Carter Hart earned goaltender of the year and Brandon’s Ivan Provorov took home defenceman of the year.

Moncton’s Conor Garland won the top scorer with 128 points in 62 games, Cape Breton’s Pierre-Luc Dubois earned top NHL draft prospect, sportsman of the year went to Shawinigan’s Samuel Girard, Saginaw’s Will Petschenig won humanitarian of the year, the scholastic player award was given to Alexis D’Aoust of Shawinigan and Rouyn-Noranda’s Gilles Bouchard was named coach of the year.

Marner and his Knights will face Perron and the Huskies in the Memorial Cup final on Sunday.

His advice to upcoming players trying to do what he’s done this past season is simple: "Sacrifice, work as hard as you can every day and just buy into the system that every day you are prepared."

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