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Marner wows for Canada in exhibition win vs. Russia

by Aaron Vickers /

CALGARY -- It was the first impression Mitchell Marner was hoping to leave on Hockey Canada coach Dave Lowry.

Marner, selected with the fourth pick in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, was dynamic in making several highlight reel plays in a 4-1 win against Russia on Monday during Canada's National Junior Evaluation Camp at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park.

"He's a world-class player and he's a highly skilled individual," Lowry said. "He was fun for us to watch. It's the first time we've had eyes on him live and in a game. He performed exceptionally. I thought he was outstanding. There's a reason why Toronto drafted him when they did. He's an exceptional player. It was nice to see it live."

Marner is one of 39 players currently attending Canada's evaluation camp, which will help determine its roster at the 2016 World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland, played from Dec. 26, 2015 through Jan. 5, 2016. Canada returns to the tournament as the reigning gold medalists.

The 18-year-old hopes to be a part of the group set to defend.

"I think the biggest thing is you want to contribute and be on this team when December rolls around," Marner said. "That's everyone's goal in that room right now. You're all battling for spots."

Marner worked an early give-and-go before being denied by Russia goaltender Maxim Tretyak six minutes into the game. Tretyak also denied Spencer Watson (Los Angeles Kings) four minutes later on a set-up that saw Marner avoid two Russian defenders while keeping the puck in at the blue line before dishing a pass into the slot.

"That's my game is controlling the puck, and that's what I wanted to do coming in here," Marner said. "I felt my teammates were giving it to me. We had such good chemistry out on the ice that we were confusing them. I think that's why we had so much success."

Forty-one seconds into the second period, a drop pass to defenseman Joe Hicketts (Detroit Red Wings) resulted in Canada's second goal of the game and the eventual winner.

It was Marner's only point in the effort.

"I kind of called for it at first and he took it to the middle," Hicketts said. "Those great players have that hockey sense to know where I am. He just feathered it in there. I had an open cage to put it in."

Later in the period while shorthanded, Marner played keep-away with the puck from the Russians in his own end, killing plenty of time off the clock.

"I was nervous. I was out there. I didn't know what was going on," Hicketts said. "He's a skilled player and I think we saw that on the PK and power play, whenever he had the puck. Those types of players are nice to have on your team. He's been a great guy and hopefully I can get to know him a little better going forward."

In 63 regular-season games with the London Knights last season, Marner had 44 goals and 126 points, three shy of the Ontario Hockey League lead of 129 by Dylan Strome (Arizona Coyotes). Marner was held without a point just 13 times in the regular season and had points in all seven playoff games for the Knights.

Strome, Watson and Mitchell Stephens (Tampa Bay Lightning) also scored for Canada.

Mason McDonald (Calgary Flames), made 16 saves on 17 shots to record the win. Tretyak, the grandson of legendary Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, made 23 saves.

Damir Sharipzyanov (undrafted) scored the lone goal for Russia in the loss.

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