BUFFALO, New York – What NHL Draft prospect Mitchell Marner lacks in size, he more than makes up for in heart.
At 5-foot-11 and 161 pounds, he’s learned to embrace the underdog status, revelling in the opportunity to flip the many naysayers.
Nowadays, of course, the NHL is more about speed and skill – a fact not lost on the diminutive pivot that became the first London Knight to reach the 100-point plateau since John Tavares back in 2008-09. He’s the 46th player in franchise history to record 100 points, joining an elite group
that includes Patrick Kane, Corey Perry and countless other professional superstars.
“It’s not all about big guys nowadays; it's more about speed and thinking. I thought I’ve always had that and watching those guys in the NHL, they’re making it clear to people now,” Marner said.
“Mark and Dale (Hunter) put a lot of trust in me, and this year they put even more on me. I learned a lot in my first year and I think that’s why I excelled this year.”
Did he ever.
Marner had 44 goals and 126 points in 63 regular-season games, more than double the output of his previous year when he was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team.
“I always had confidence in my game, but obviously the NHL it gets faster, so I wanted to have a big year.”
Marner is an exceptional, well-rounded talent. His vision, speed and passing ability is off the charts, making him especially lethal off the rush. Down low, he’s nearly impossible to strip the puck off, beating defenders one-on-one and retaining possession in even the most dire situations. If none
of the above are available, he’ll beat you with one of the most powerful shots in the league.
As a result, product of Thornhill, ON could be a Top 5 pick at the draft.
Size? Pssh. He’s heard the comparisons, all right; that he’s this year’s Johnny Gaudreau or some variant. Bring it on, he says.
“In my (OHL) draft year I was about 5-foot-6, 125,” Marner laughed. “Even back then, I always believed in my ability and it’s never slowed me down.
“I’m not going to let it now.”
Marner met with 18 teams this week and thoroughly enjoyed the process – even the dreaded VO2 Max and Wingate Bike Tests. Now that he’s on the cusp of being drafted, it’s beginning to feel
Three weeks from now, he could be donning NHL colours for the first time.
“Every interview went well,” he said. “Some asked a few questions that try to fool you, but in the end it was all a learning experience and they were all fun.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com