In 2015, Mitch Marner hit our T25 list at number 5 behind Morgan Rielly, William Nylander, Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri. In 2016 and 2017, he was third. This year he’s second, but he’s not alone.

We have a tie because five our voters picked Marner second and five picked Nylander. The people who picked Marner will tell you why they made that choice.

Brigstew: Despite picking Nylander at #2 over Marner, I’m secretly glad that the PPP ~Hivemind~ masthead voters wound up in a straight tie between the two, because I think that’s probably more accurate. Marner’s a year younger, he was money on the PP last year and seemed to take a big step forward in the second half. Plus he’s going to go from playing with Kadri as his centre to one of Matthews or Tavares... now I love me some Naz, but OMG YES PLEASE! I think he could top a point per game this year with his absurd play making. I’d just like to see him start scoring some more goals, but being with Tavares with his play making I think will help that.

Katya: When I first made my ranking list, I just went with a gut feeling, filled it out and left it for two weeks. I had Marner and Nylander at 2.5 each. The very last thing I did after I more seriously revamped the hard parts (the lower half) was make the decision between these two.

One thing that I think is leading the general opinion for Marner over Nylander is that, while they both had uneven seasons last year, Marner did his in the “right” order. He started out rough, he did some fourth line time, and he flourished in the latter half of the season, and he led the team in points in the playoffs. I tried very hard to disregard that. I think it’s a nice narrative arc, but this isn’t a movie, this is reality where random fluctuations don’t reveal your inner worth.

Much also gets made of the differing uses of these two last year. Nylander, the story goes, played with Matthews all the time (never mind that’s not true) and Marner had to play with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak who are so, so bad. Therefore Nylander rode coattails and Marner is a star who elevated those terrible players. The truth is, of course, that van Riemsdyk and Bozak had stellar results, gentle usage, and they flourished at five-on-five right along with Connor Brown. Wait...what? Yes, Connor Brown had very similar results as Marner with those two linemates, and most of his goal scoring involved one other player on the ice. So, what’s more accurate to say is that van Riemsdyk was a major nexus of offence, and anyone who played with him got some glory too.

But you can’t deny that when Marner started playing with Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau, they sure looked good. And they were good in large part because Marner fit with those two players even better than with van Riemsdyk. He could give and go with Marleau, rotate around the more static Kadri and dazzle the defenders. They were offensively excellent, when Kadri hadn’t been all season.  I think it’s fair to say that Marner made that line hum. And that’s a subjective call to some extent, but it always looked like Marner’s puck control, and use of the open space was the key to success.

Marner, away from the high-volume, high-success finisher van Riemsdyk, kept up his offensive pace and got results. Nylander, away the high-volume, high-success finisher Matthews, got better defensively but lost some offensive umph. His own shooting issues, which are unlikely to be as bad ever again, helped with that, but he’s not, I don’t think, quite the engine of a line that Marner is.

Marner is a bit younger, but more important for me is that Nylander has a lot of years of pro hockey and Marner has two. I think both players will take another step this season, and next summer, we’ll likely be arguing about how much of Marner’s results are him and how much they are John Tavares, and that’s just a hardship we’ll have to bear up under.

This year, Marner wins by a nose because I think there’s a good chance his step up will be a little bigger than Nylander’s this year.

Arvind: I’m kicking myself for procrastinating because my blurb is now after Katya’s, and nothing I write will compare to that. She said most of what I was thinking, in a far more eloquent way than I was thinking it. So I’ll just mention where we differ.

Unlike Katya, this vote did come down to age for me, because I think Nylander actually had a slightly better season than Marner did last year.

If you’re willing to trade Nylander, you should be willing to trade Marner

Nylander scored more at even strength in 2017/18, and I was generally encouraged by his time away from Matthews (excepting when he played with Kadri and Leo Komarov*). He sustained positive shot differentials away from Matthews and Kadri, both in absolute terms and relative to the team. This is despite getting less zone shelter than when he was with Matthews. Accordingly, he was one of the team leaders in Regularized Adjusted Corsi Plus Minus; this is a stat that estimates a player’s impact on shot share accounting for their teammates, competition, and usage. In his two years on the Leafs, Nylander ranked 3rd on the Leafs in this measure, and is comfortably above average league-wide. Marner was essentially at league average, though he was stronger as a sophomore than as a rookie. Incidentally, the two Leafs above Nylander are van Riemsdyk and Kadri... which goes to Katya’s point about the general underrating of the players Marner was with.

* I recognize it’s sort of stupid to ignore results, but holy hell, Leo was totally awful last season, and literally every player he was with saw their stats plummet. Johnsson/Kadri/Nylander performed solidly in the playoffs, which to me indicates that Leo was the central problem there.

Kadri was indeed made better when Marner replaced Komarov on his line. A portion of the credit for that belongs to Marner. A portion also belongs to the fact that Leo Komarov is washed, and replacing him with anyone would lead to improvement. Interestingly, in a small sample away from both Marner and Komarov, Kadri saw only slightly worse on-ice results than with Marner. As Katya pointed out, van Riemsdyk continued his success with Brown replacing Marner on his line. Marner had a positive effect, but it was overstated, and that’s how I’d characterize his year. Very good, but overstated, particularly from some elements of the media, who treated him like he was closer in status to Matthews than Nylander.

So about 300 words in to my justification on why I ranked Marner at 2, I have mostly downplayed his year. I’ll get to the fun stuff now. As overstated as I think his year was, Marner was undoubtedly a bona fide first line winger while being 20 for the vast majority of the season. He was the facilitator on the best power play unit in the league. He’s an absolutely brilliant playmaker, and he could honestly be the type of player who raises the shooting percentage of players around him. Those are the rarest and most valuable players in the league, and it renders every caveat I made about his ability to drive shots moot. He is genuinely a savant in the offensive zone, and is a true treat to watch. Most excitingly, we’re at a point in his career where we can still expect notable year-over-year growth. That growth potential is why Mitch Marner is at #2.

Kevin: I am always surprised by how the Marner vs. Nylander breaks down during the T25U25 each year. This dates back to 2015, when Marner ranked 5th on this list, while Nylander ranked 2nd. Nylander also finished ahead of Marner in both 2016 and 2017, so this has been a common theme over the years.

Let’s start simple: Nylander has scored at a 0.72 points per game rate over his career (59 points per 82 games), while Marner sits at 0.83 (68 points per 82 games). Marner scored 13 more points than Nylander last year in the same amount of games, despite being a year younger.

Marner was dominant on the powerplay last year, but there now seems to be a myth going around that he’s not as good of a scorer at 5v5, despite the fact that he’s outscored Nylander in terms of both points per 60 and primary points per 60 over their careers. I don’t see a major difference between the two players in this regard, but I do think age is an important factor to consider here. I expect the 2018-2019 version of Mitch Marner to outperform the 2017-2018 version of William Nylander, and I think it’s easy to fall into the habit of believing that they are the same age.

I do not think there is much of a gap between the two, but the edge goes to the younger player for me. I do not think there is a massive gap between the two, especially after you give Nylander a bit of a bump for his ability to shift over to centre, but Marner probably has a little bit more to give in terms of development.

Anyways, I am not outraged that there is a tie between Marner and Nylander on this year’s rankings, but I am surprised that Marner has never finished ahead of Nylander in the last four years. Nylander is an incredible zone entry specialist who pairs perfectly with Auston Matthews, and I am excited to see what Marner can do with John Tavares. Tyler Bozak is a fine player, but he’s more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, and I watched Marner help turn Christian Dvorak into a 73-goal scorer during their last year in London.

It’s nice to see Marner get the credit he deserves on this list, and at the end of the day, this is just a fun argument. We get to watch both of them on the same team, which is hilarious, given that the Leafs have Matthews, Tavares, and Kadri down the middle. It’s honestly unbelievable.

Omar: Going to take a crack at this without trying to sound too repetitive. One thing that’s always stood out about Marner is his knack of making those around him better which hasn’t been lost at all while make the transition over to the NHL. It started in London with Dvorak and continued to the Leafs with JVR and Bozak in the 16-17 campaign and then to Kadri and Marleau this past season.

I think it’s an understatement to qualify Marner as merely a playmaker. There’s such a high degree of dynamics that goes along with the way he plays. It ties into the ‘honey bee’ factor in that it seems he’s everywhere on the ice when Babs give him the tap. And with those quick and agile movements come with constant awareness of what is going on around on both ends of the ice. It’s that quality that will make a line with him and JT so dangerous for the Leafs next season and boost his overall offensive output.

Seeing what Marner has done already in limited time in the professional realm of hockey gives him the edge in my mind. But similarly to the lovely people at PPP, I don’t think the difference between himself and Nylander is as grand as many others make it out to be. What will seal the deal for me is whether Marner can take his play from the second half of the 2017-18 season, and extend it throughout this upcoming year.

If you think about it, with 47 points in 52 games, Marner was scoring at a 0.9 points-per-game pace. Stretching that across an 82-game season would have him finish at around 74 points. Would that be out of the realm of possibility for Marner? I don’t think so.

seldo: Yeah. What they said. Really it’s so close for me between these two players, I put Nylander #2 last year, and Marner #2 this year. I guess the deciding factor was Marner is slightly younger than Nylander and a bit flashier? I”m not as good at analyzing players as everyone above me, but man, aren’t we lucky to be having this debate?