While Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel stole the headlines, London Knights centre Mitch Marner developed into one of the more fascinating prospects heading into the 2015 NHL Draft.
Here’s everything you need to know about the highly-skilled forward who has drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane and Doug Gilmour:
Name: Mitch Marner
Birthplace: Thornhill, Ontario
Current Team: London Knights, OHL
Weight: 160 pounds
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North American): 6th
Marek’s Take: Some concerns about his size but zero concerns about his production. As the game continues to open up for smaller players a skater like Marner should excel. Is a better player defensively than some give him credit for. Comparable: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Smaller than your typical No. 1 centre:
Marner isn’t built like Ryan Getzlaf or Joe Thornton, but that didn’t preclude the London Knights from drafting him. Despite his size, Marner offered an intriguing skill set that included speed, vision, hockey sense and an ability to play in all three zones of the ice.
His slight frame hardly hurt his production at the OHL level. In his rookie season with London, Marner registered 13 goals and 46 assists before blowing up in 2014-15.
The Knights forward finished second to Erie’s Dylan Strome in OHL scoring this season with an impressive 44 goals and 126 points in 63 games. He also added nine goals and 16 points in seven playoff games.
If anything, the knocks on his size have served as motivation, and he’s been able to compensate with an incredible first step and an ability to out-think his competition.
“I had a couple coaches tell me when I was younger, ‘Have fun playing minor hockey, because that’s all you’ll ever play,’” Marner told Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford earlier this year. “That’s why I always play like it’s my last day.”
Dynamic skill set
Outside of McDavid and Eichel, Marner is the most skilled forward in the draft class. He is supremely talented with the puck, is a strong possession player, and excels in the defensive zone as well.
“He has a chance to be a superstar,” Mark Seidel, chief scout for North American Central Scouting, told The Toronto Star. “He has incredible vision and ability to find teammates in traffic with pinpoint passes. And playing for Dale Hunter has been very good for him as he has a strong base on which to build.”
He would love to play for the Maple Leafs
Marner grew up just outside of Toronto in Thornhill, the same city that produced Milos Raonic and Dominic Moore. The 18-year-old Marner grew up cheering for the Maple Leafs organization and would not shy away from playing for his hometown team.
“I’ve lived there my whole life,” Marner said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in April. “You want to be a guy that helps the city out and you want to take that team into the playoffs, so I’ve thought about it a couple times. But anything can happen on draft day so you have to keep your mind open.”
LISTEN: Mitch Marner talks draft, Leafs and scouting combine
The concept isn’t a pipe dream, either. The Maple Leafs own the No. 4 overall selection and NHL Central Scouting listed Marner as No. 6 among North American skaters in their final rankings.
Toronto is in need of an upper-echelon forward with Marner’s skill. He also has close ties to the Maple Leafs’ front office, as director of player personnel Mark Hunter co-owns the London Knights and played a significant role in drafting Marner to the junior team. Because of Hunter’s presence, the Maple Leafs may rank Marner higher than other NHL clubs.
Marner also happens to wear No. 93 because of a prominent former Maple Leaf.
“He’s got a little bit of Gilmour in him,” Dan Marr, chief scout for the NHL’s Central Scouting bureau, told the Toronto Star in April. “Nothing you do is going to stop him from going out there to do what he can do.”