Mitch Marner will get his first taste of pre-season hockey when the Leafs visit the Canadiens tonight.
The odds are stacked against the Leafs first round draft choice from 2015. With many prospects at camp, his chances of making the NHL roster this year are slim. But it’s about the journey and learning along the way.
Included in the process is learning from some of the veterans. On the recent trip to Halifax, Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf invited Marner to sit with him on the plane ride over. It was there where Marner got to pick Phaneuf’s brain about what it takes to make it in the League.
“When I came in here I was really shy and I didn’t know who to talk to anyone or scared to talk to any of the vets,” said Marner. “For him to come up to me right away and introduce himself to me was kind of special. It kind of opened my eyes. If I go back to junior, that’s the kind of leader I want to be. He said he’s always going to be there for me to help when I need it.”
It takes an extraordinary effort for a player like Marner to win a spot out of training camp. It usually comes at a cost of someone else’s position.
“Well they have to take someone’s job,” said Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. “If you’re a top-six type forward, you have to take the job of a top-six type forward or you’re going to have to learn to do something else.”
Marner will play on the wing tonight with 2014 first round pick William Nylander on his line at centre.