Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner on first All-Star Game, evolution of NHL wingers

Mitch Marner joins Hockey Central on his experience as a Leaf and his excitement heading into tonight’s skills competition.

After a pair of impressive 60-point campaigns as a young gun and a dominant 94-point effort last season, Mitch Marner is officially an All-Star.

The star winger earned his first career selection on the back of the Maple Leafs faithful, his name added to the mix via the league’s ‘Last Men In’ fan vote.

With an impressive 47 points on the season so far, second-most on the team despite missing roughly a month with an early injury, the 22-year-old said he’s honoured to get his first shot at joining the All-Star festivities.

“It’s definitely up there,” Marner told Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central crew when asked where an All-Star debut ranks among young hockey players’ goals. “I mean, probably top three I’d say, [with] the Stanley Cup, getting drafted and then making it here. It’s something as a kid you watch, you grew up watching. You watched all the guys competing and just really looking like they’re having a blast.

“I’m super honoured to be a part of it now.”

The Markham, Ont., native will suit up for the inaugural Shooting Stars event as part of the Skills Competition on Friday, a trick-shot-like affair that’ll see players wiring pucks off an elevated platform 30 feet above the ice, trying to snipe targets spread across the sheet.

“We went and gave it a shot yesterday from where the actual mark was, where everything’s sitting in the stands,” Marner said. “It’s weird — I mean, you’re elevated, you don’t really know how much power to put into it or anything, but we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, I just don’t embarrass myself.”

Hockey Central
Mitch Marner will also be in the stands this All-Star weekend
January 24 2020

The skill-set Marner’s put on display so far in his young career suggests he’ll be just fine. But there’s far more to his game — and that of his fellow All-Star wingers — than the offence-focused skill-sets of the stars who played his position back in the day.

The evolution of the game has seemed to bring with it a blurring of the lines for players in all positions. And while the focus of that transition is most often the greater offensive roles of today’s top blue-liners, there’s been just as big a shift for the wingers, says Marner.

“I think for wingers, you see more now the defensive wingers or two-way wingers that have really developed throughout the league, Mark Stone being the kind of lead guy in that,” Marner told the Hockey Central crew. “Seeing what he’s done the last couple years with takeaways and even just with his stick, he’s been amazing at that. So, I think really the winger role has evolved into being something bigger than just kind of that guy that goes up and down the wing, that can shoot, that power forward guy getting the puck deep and hitting guys.

“I think it’s really developed a lot now into a skilled guy, a playmaker or a goal-scorer or really anything. I think now in wingers’ minds it’s not just about doing that up-and-down ice, it’s about covering all zones and making sure you’re covering for your centreman if need be, and I think everyone’s kind of taken a bigger role with that.”

Listen to Mitch Marner’s full interview with Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central via the audio player embedded within this post.

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