As the Maple Leafs lay a foundation for their build they'll look to get and grow young, high-ceiling talent. Heading towards the draft, there won't be many players more skilled on their board than Mitchell Marner.
Marner was a dynamic offensive player all season long for the London Knights. He recorded 126 points in 63 games, a 67 point improvement on his rookie season in London when he notched 59 points in 64 games. Following his strong regular season, he recorded nine goals and 16 points in just seven playoff games.
Internationally, Marner has represented Canada at the U-17 championships and Ivan Hlinka tournament. He recorded nine points in five games at the U-17s. At the Hlinka memorial, he won a gold medal for Canada with seven points in five games.
With his sheer offensive ability, Marner often earns comparisons to players like Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux. The pair are also players who play bigger than their perceived lack of size with a tenacious game and filled the net with their supreme skill.
Marner is a dynamic offensive talent. He's a quick skater who possesses good hands and a hockey sense that allows him to find teammates. Of his 126 points this season, 82 were assists. He also owns a sneaky shot and willingness to get to the gritty areas of the ice, which affords both himself and linemates scoring chances. When the puck isn't on his stick, he has a good work rate in all three zones to retrieve it.
The clear knock on Marner's game is his size. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 164 pounds, making him more slight than the prototypical top flight forwards in the League. With that said, you only need to look at the seasons had by smaller players like Tyler Johnson to realize this isn't the hindrance it once was. Moreover, Marner didn't turn 18 until this past May. It stands to reason that at such a young age he has plenty of room to grow physically.
Once Marner joins a team and their player development system, he'll have plenty of opportunity to get stronger and put on functional weight. His size will scare some teams away, but the skill he offers is reason to think twice.
Expect Marner to be drafted between the third and seventh picks.