Marner expects to play centre on Maple Leafs

Brady & Walker think Mitch Marner should make the Maple Leafs out of training camp, because there’s nothing left to accomplish in junior hockey, and discuss the club’s overall very smart 2015 draft.

Mitch Marner has spent the majority of his junior career as a winger with the London Knights, but Toronto Maple Leafs management envision him as an NHL centre.

“That’s what [co-interim GM] Mark [Hunter] told me,” Marner told George Rusic and Ben Ennis on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Monday morning. “He wants me playing centre in a few years, so that’s what I’ve got to start working on.”

LISTEN: Marner talks about his future with the Leafs

Marner, who has played centre in the past, admitted he must get stronger and work on his face-off skills if he is to play down the middle as a pro.

“It’s a special place to play in Toronto and whatever they want me to do I’ll do.”

The 18-year-old Thornhill, Ont., native had a dream come true when he was selected fourth overall at the 2015 NHL Draft by the team he grew up cheering for.

“It was kind of a surprise when Toronto called my name but it was a great delight,” Marner said. “[Being drafted by the Leafs] was better than what I expected it to be. I never thought when I was a little kid sitting in front of my television with my Leafs jersey on that I’d get a chance to put it on in a professional way and go out and play for my city. I’ve been given that opportunity now and it’s up to me to make the most of it.”

While he was somewhat taken aback when the Leafs picked him, Marner does have several connections to the Maple Leafs front office. Hunter was the one who drafted Marner to the Knights with the final pick in the first round of the 2013 OHL draft and new Leafs scout Lindsay Hofford, the former director of scouting for the Knights, has also known Marner for years.

“[Hunter and Hofford] have had so much confidence in me these past couple years, drafting me into the OHL as a guy that didn’t have the size…and they put a lot of confidence in me,” Marner explained. “Ever since then I’ve kind of just kept building off that and they helped me out through my OHL career.”

In 63 games with the Knights this season, Marner had 44 goals, 82 assists and finished second in Ontario Hockey League scoring behind Dylan Strome who leapfrogged him with a six-point game on the final day of the regular season. Marner also tallied 16 points in seven playoff games.

He will in all likelihood have a chance to improve on those numbers next season – that is if he’s not playing in the NHL. Marner said the Maple Leafs told him they will give him a shot to make the roster out of training camp rather than automatically sending him back to the Knights for another year of junior.

“It’s up to me to make this team,” said Marner before adding he’s excited at the prospect of playing under acclaimed coach Mike Babcock.

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