The top five Maple Leafs under 25 are up this week and coming in at #5 is one of the newest Leafs, 2015 first round pick Mitch Marner. Marner was one of the top skaters in his OHL draft class, and if we take McDavid and Eichel out of the mix, Marner and Dylan Strome would have been battling for first overall.
Mitch Marner was fighting for the OHL's scoring title this past season and finished with 44 goals and 82 assists for 126 points in 63 games (exactly two points per game). He had seven goals, nine assists (16 points) in seven OHL playoff games this past season as well.
Marner is one of the Leafs best prospects right now, and honestly one of the team's best prospects in a while. Right up there with William Nylander, our own Scott Wheeler posed the question earlier this summer: Who is the Leafs best prospect?
One edge that Marner has going for him is in the hearts of fans and newspaper writers everywhere: He's been a fan of the Maple Leafs since he was a kid. He wears #93 for Doug Gilmour and said when he was drafted "I wanted to play for this team my whole life."
Marner is the complete package as a player. He has the stick handling skills, the skating, the ability to turn on a dime without losing momentum while weaving his way through opposing players, and the vision that makes everything look easy.
What we're seeing in voting this time around is a clear split in those who are voting with a "what can you do for me now" look at the top five and those who are looking for future potential. Marner had all his votes in the top 5, ranging from 1-5, but only four voters had him in their top two.
I looked at all of that and placed him 5th. Why? Basically it came down to the fact that there's no point in having him in the NHL this season, and he can't play for the Marlies. Yes, I'm one of the "what can you do for me now?" kind of voters, and it's all but decided, since it was said back in July, that Marner will be back in the OHL this season.
Hunter added that he expects Marner to be back in London next year in all likelihood.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) June 27, 2015
This isn't a bad thing for him. Yes, he had 2PPG last season but this is his chance to shine as the leader on a dominant team. This year the Knights are (*sigh*) once again looking to be a force in the OHL and with Max Domi leaving for the Coyotes the team is Marner's to lead to glory.
We had some questions for Gus Katsaros of McKeens hockey about Marner and you'll find those below.
Q: Is Marner possibly the most talented forward the Lefas have ever drafted?
There’s no doubt. There hasn’t been any player drafted by the Leafs in the modern era that matches the skill set for Marner. There’s an argument he holds the potential to be their best attained asset that’s a building block for the organization as well, up there with Morgan Rielly in contention. Intriguing to fathom which player makes the biggest impact.
Q: Is there anything left for Marner to prove in junior? Or like most high draft picks is he going to go straight to the NHL at 18?
Always the chance of making the roster out of training camp, however, it would be at the expense of eating a year on the entry level contract, in a soft season with less to learn about the pro game than he may have to learn in London.
He can go back to a strong London team and try to dominate winning an OHL Championship while vying for a scoring title. He could add some strength and adjustment to a higher pace; a professional pace – one of the biggest obstacles to prospects making the transition to professional leagues.
It’s not unlikely to see Marner in blue and white as early as 2016-17 but I would doubt he’s a Leaf come October.
If you're in or near an OHL town I would buy tickets to the games when the Knights are playing now, this is one player you will want to see in person.
What say you?