After months of speculation, Brendan Shannon, Mark Hunter, Kyle Dubas and the Leafs amateur scouting team settled on Knights sometime-winger, sometime-centre, Mitch Marner.
"I wanted to play for this team my whole life," Marner said following the selection in a conversation with Sportsnet.
Marner, the team's first fourth overall selection since famed defensemen Al Iafrate in 1984, holds ties to a pair of Leafs front office personnel who have recently arrived via Knights Management: Newly hired amateur scout Lindsay Hofford and Hunter, the team's director of player personnel.
This season, Marner's two points per game (PPG) scoring clip was good for second in the CHL, behind only first overall selection Connor McDavid, and ahead of Erie's Dylan Strome (1.89 PPG).
Despite a second round playoff exit, Marner continued his superb play, registering 16 points in seven games, including more than a goal a game with nine tallies.
Marner brings an impressive pedigree to the Leafs pool of prospects, with one of the highest scoring draft years in the last decade, including better offensive production than several first overall selections in their draft years.
A product of an exceptionally strong draft, Marner was allowed to fall to the Leafs, who sit fourth overall.
An extremely gifted puck carrier, skater, playmaker and finisher, Marner joins top prospect William Nylander as the organization's second blue chip prospects, indicative of a movement from within towards building a team built more on skill than size.
Earlier this month, Pension Plan Puppets also selected Marner fourth overall in the 2015 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft.
His size, has proven not to yet be an issue and shouldn't prohibit him from being a dynamic offensive threat at the NHL level. By virtue of Marner's incredible ability to weave through traffic, alter his speed, and stop/pivot on a dime, he is able to out-maneuver bigger, stronger defenders.
And while he will almost certainly return to a strong 2015-2016 London Knights team to prove he can carry the load, potentially without top Coyotes prospects and frequent linemates Max Domi and Christian Dvorak, Marner projects as a top six winger with first line upside.
For the Leafs, the decision came down to the trio of Mitch Marner, Dylan Strome and Noah Hanifin, knowing that one of them would be plucked at third overall.
In my final top 60 ranking with McKeen's Hockey, I gave Hanifin (No. 3) and Strome (No. 4) the slight edge over Marner (No. 5), in part because of the value of a centre and a top defensemen. Still, Marner instantly becomes one of the most talented prospects the Leafs have had in their nearly 100-year history.
According to Mark Hunter, the Leafs expect Marner will return to the Knights organization next season.
Hunter added that he expects Marner to be back in London next year in all likelihood.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) June 27, 2015
The Knights are tabbed to be among the OHL's best franchises, have added top 2016 prospects Matthew Tkachuk and Max Jones. There's also a chance that eight overall selection Zach Werenski joins the Knights, as he has admitted he will do if asked, instead of returning the the University of Michigan.
Despite having played wing down the stretch, the Leafs would reportedly like to develop Marner as a centre.
Hunter believes Marner will play centre at the NHL level. Perhaps switch positions at times.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 27, 2015
Mitch Marner Scouting Report
Slick hands and elite footwork help Marner evade contact in tight .. calm playmaker, one of the most patient players in the class with the puck .. despite a slender appearance on the ice, Marner consistently outsmarts his opponents to beat them .. anticipates the play well which creates spacing when he receives the puck off the rush .. has a tendency to get caught running around in his own zone on a poor defensive team in London but he competes hard on loose pucks .. strong reflexes and instincts allow him to create at full speed .. skates hard and uses his stick to win puck battles .. hard on the backcheck and he comes deep in the defensive zone to retrieve pucks .. loves to find teammates on his backhand .. played the wing on the powerplay and the majority of the year on a dominant line with Max Domi .. effective on the wing or at centre due to his creativity.Check out his world class footwork here: