Today presents another day in the life of Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leaf.
It was never a question of if he would sign. That rarely — if almost never — is the case with a top pick in an NHL draft. The Thornhill native already bought in.
Marner has been splitting his time at the Leafs practice facility and in Vaughan putting in the training necessary ahead of what will be his toughest challenge yet — making an impression and showing that he fits in.
“Just because I wasn’t signed doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to do everything I could to make the team. I was always part of it,” said Marner, hours after signing his three-year entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs. “Since the draft I’ve been locked into the organization. Today just kind of marks that I’m really part of it. Now it’s up to me to put the work in and make this team.”
You can forgive the timing of the signing as the Leafs have been quite busy.
It was just five days ago the Leafs named Lou Lamoriello to be their 16th general manager in club history. The news caught many by surprise, including Marner, who met with Lamoriello before in a different role.
“It’s pretty funny. I remember I had a sit down interview with him at the draft and talking about getting drafted by New Jersey,” said Marner. “Now I met with him today and it’s kind of funny how he said how now that interview meant nothing and now he’s signing me. It’s kind of funny how everything works out like that.”
In fact, Marner has probably been through the most unique draft interview experience a prospect can ever go through. In addition to his experience with Lamoriello, Marner interviewed with Leafs director of player personnel Mark Hunter who, a year prior, was the man that drafted him with the London Knights of the OHL.
Marner’s signing marks the first official transaction under the office of Lamoriello.
“I know he’s a great GM,” said Marner. “He’s won a lot of cups and a lot of division titles and that’s good for this organization. That’s our goal moving forward is to win a Stanley Cup and I think he’s going to help out a lot.”
Life is a bit different now for Marner. Everywhere he goes there are family and friends who have supported him along the way. With every day his name is in the news, he’s getting more notes of congrats from his support system.
“I’ve been trying to thank them this past month. I’m going to try and go out for dinner with them. Spend as much time as I can with my family and kind of take it all in together.”
The work Marner has been putting in has intensified. The expectations put on him are greater than he’s ever faced. But Marner is learning on a daily basis and putting it all in prospective.
“You’ve got to make your body ready for that, that’s what I’ve been trying to do this whole summer is to try and make my body ready to try and take on the season there (at the NHL level),” added Marner. “But, they’re not going to rush me into a situation I’m not ready for. I’m just taking it day by day every day I step into the gym and out on the ice.”