Mitch Marner will never survive the NHL

Yesterday, Mitch Marner capped off one of the single greatest seasons in the history of junior hockey. He finished second in OHL scoring, won the league MVP award, dominated the playoffs, won that MVP, dominated the Memorial Cup, won that MVP, and won the CHL MVP award to top it all off. 

He’s the third player in history to sweep all of the MVP awards, the second youngest to do so, and the first to do it in 16 years. At times, he looked like he was using the games as practices, defeating his opponents at 80, 70, 60% intensity because anything further would have been embarrassing.

But it won’t last. At 5’11, Mitch Marner is too small to play in the NHL.

It’s been said by many and I’m going to repeat the sentiment. The NHL is a big boy’s league that is dominated by big, tough, character players who will defend the honour of their teammates by brutally destroying anybody surrounding them. Marner’s height, something he’s been picked on for by hockey eyes since he was in kindergarten, strongly correlates with having a career ending injury in his second or third shift. The numbers don’t lie:

Player GP G A PTS Height
Marcel Dionne 1348 731 1040 1771 5’9
Steve Yzerman 1514 692 1063 1755 5’10
Joe Sakic 1378 625 1016 1641 5’11
Mark Recchi 1652 577 956 1533 5’10
Stan Mikita 1394 541 926 1467 5’9
Brian Trottier 1279 524 901 1425 5’11
Adam Oates 1337 341 1079 1420 5’11
Doug Gilmour 1474 450 964 1414 5’11
Dale Hawerchuk 1188 518 891 1409 5’11
Brett Hull 1269 741 650 1391 5’11
Denis Savard 1196 473 865 1338 5’10
Norm Ullman 1410 490 739 1229 5’10
Dino Ciccarelli 1232 608 592 1200 5’10
Bobby Hull 1063 610 560 1170 5’10
Daniel Alfredsson 1246 444 713 1157 5’11
Theo Fleury 1084 455 633 1088 5’6
Ray Whitney 1330 385 679 1064 5’10
Joe Mullen 1062 502 561 1063 5’9
Pat Verbeek 1424 522 541 1063 5’9
Henri Richard 1256 358 688 1046 5’7
Doug Weight 1238 278 755 1033 5’11
Martin St. Louis 1134 391 642 1033 5’8
Brian Bellows 1188 485 537 1022 5’11
Dale Hunter 1407 323 697 1020 5’10
Pat Lafontaine 865 468 545 1013 5’10
Steve Larmer 1006 441 571 1012 5’11
Brian Propp 1016 425 579 1004 5’10

Wait. Those must be the wrong numbers. I don’t know how I managed to crunch them so poorly. No worries, though; we play in the present, not the past. A land where anybody who can’t dunk a basketball is banned from entry. I dare you to find me a single top six forward in the league this year that stoops as low as Marner does, let alone shorter.

Player GP G A PTS Height
Patrick Kane 82 46 60 106 5’11
Sidney Crosby 80 36 49 85 5’11
Joe Pavelski 82 38 40 78 5’11
Johnny Gaudreau 79 30 48 78 5’9
Artemi Panarin 80 30 47 77 5’11
Claude Giroux 78 22 45 67 5’11
Nikita Kucherov 77 30 36 66 5’11
Brad Marchand 77 37 24 61 5’9
Mats Zuccarello 81 26 35 61 5’7
Jussi Jokinen 80 18 42 60 5’11
Matt Duchene 76 30 29 59 5’11
Kyle Palmieri 82 30 27 57 5’10
Tomas Plekanec 82 14 40 54 5’11
Zach Parise 70 25 28 53 5’11
Vincent Trochek 76 25 28 53 5’10
Alexander Steen 67 17 35 52 5’11
Max Domi 81 21 31 52 5’10
Jeff Skinner 82 28 23 51 5’11
Patric Hornqvist 82 22 29 51 5’11
TJ Oshie 80 26 25 51 5’11
Lee Stempniak 82 19 32 51 5’11
Pavel Datsyuk 66 16 33 49 5’11
Ryan Spooner 80 13 36 49 5’10
Jordan Eberle 69 25 22 47 5’11

Yeah, well, he’s still going to have to put on weight. Something about an NHL summer, or whatever. How can we expect him to keep up his ~58 point NHLe from this year if he can’t bench a small car?

Whatever, man. Should’ve picked Laine.

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  • CMpuck

    Why not write something why he’s different or about the danger of him becoming a Sam Gagner or Brule?

    We know his ceiling and we collectively marvel over it, what about his floor?

  • vermie22

    All Leaf fans want this kid to succeed, and all Leaf fans are excited by the possibilities. But just because you can list players of similar sizes that had NHL success, does not mean the fear/possibility of him being injured does not exist.

    it is a rational and legitimate concern. can anyone tell me if it is at all possible for smaller players to struggle to adjust to the physicality of the NHL? because by the tone of many of these articles it seems that all smaller players are just victims of prejudice.

    • Brent Wisken

      I think the injury concerns are overstated.

      On a basic level, you get hurt by having abnormal things happen to your body, right? There’s no reason to suspect that a smaller player is going to put themselves in those situations more often than a larger player. Smaller players run a little more risk with big hits (that they should avoid more readily, due to their size/quickness), larger players run a little more risk with awkward collisions into other players, boards, nets, etc. I think it comes out pretty much equal.

      And in terms of adjusting to the physicality of the NHL, you’re right in a sense. Marner is never going to be the kind of guy who can dominate one-on-one board battles. But that’s such a small part of today’s game. Players can contribute to defence/puck retrieval in so many other ways.

    • TheKert

      The issue I have with this argument is that it is just as easy for someone who is 6’3 to get injured as it is someone who is 5’6. So why are people so concerned with his height? Also most small players play a different type of game where they aren’t putting themselves into the situations that could be dangerous. They tend to play a faster game more centered around skill than just brute force.

      • vermie22

        This is true, and his style of play is conducive to avoiding constant punishment, but I will still flinch anytime I see him go into the corners or cut across the blue line etc.

        You can say all you want that his skill will prevent him from doing these things, but it wont, it will happen, he will get hit 100%. To think otherwise is just blatantly naive.

        The first game against the Huskies, he was hit numerous times and was slow to get up on several occasions. Did they cross the line a little with those hits, yes, but that too will happen in the NHL. There is no way to completely avoid it.

        There is close to 100lbs difference between him and the bigger D men in the league. I don’t care who you are, or how good your technique is, that is going to cause damage if you get caught just once in the wrong spot.

        As I said before, I am very excited about Marner, and hope he has a great and long career with the Leafs. But i have my concerns and they wont change.

    • TheKert

      That’s absolute rubbish any player no matter the size has the potential to injure another player of any size with a hard check. It’s technique not size if size was what mattered John Scott would be the most ferocious checker in the game….. but he’s not.

      • Brent Wisken

        I believe there is a general perception that the more weight you carry, the better you are able to absorb impact therefore less likely to get hurt.

        But as you state, this leaves out from the equation the technique factor. I would also say that a player’s mentality also matters in this equation.

        Believe your rubber and everything bounces off you. Flinch for even a second causing hesitation and you get hurt.

        In fact I will hypothesis that a guy like Lupul gets hurt so often because he has a poor center of gravity and fails to plant his two feet firmly to the ice when skating. Simply put his head is in the wrong place to take a hit.

        Watching Marner, I would deem in my limited perception that his head is in the right place and will not only withstand the rigors of the NHL but in fact excel.

  • vermie22

    I’d be more impressed if you presented a balance of small talented CHL players who either excelled (Kane, Duchene etc) vs those who struggled in the NHL (schremp….). Then you could contrast Marner versus these players and project where his play might fall closer too.

    I’m mostly convinced he will be closer to the the high end talent of the NHL but this type of analysis would be more convincing then a simple narrative.

  • Brent Wisken

    While i was very happy the Leafs picked Marner, and I think he’s going to have an outstanding career, I do think it is important to keep in mind his size (note, not just height, but also weight) before rushing him to the NHL. I don’t want to see him get hurt, there is a difference between a boy’s developing small body and a man’s small body, and the Leafs are focused on the long run with the rebuild anyways. Better to see how he does in training camp and playing nine games in the NHL before making any rash decisions. Keep in mind, this article selectively picks small players throughout NHL history that have had success, while glossing over and ignoring those many smaller players that did not make it. It is a cherry-picking approach. Moreover, many of the smaller players mentioned are only small in height, but actually have solid weight to them. Important to keep weight in mind.

  • Capt.Jay

    So way off topic, but kinda deals with prospects nonetheless. I have heard that the NHL is in serious trouble of revenue going down in the next few years due to Canadian teams doing so poorly, none more than Toronto. While tv renenue will stay the same because of the deal with Sportsnet it will affect the next deal because Bell isn’t making the money it had hoped. (Again seeToronto). Vancouver posted games where they had numerous empty seats at the end of the year and they only started sucking lately. Calgary and Edmonton will be the same boat with the economy sucking in Alberta.

    With that being said, all the Canadian teams except Ottawa make money and help float the league. The NHL always figured the leafs would make huge money no matter what, but that way of thinking left the building this year when patient fans stopped buying merchandise until they have a player of the future picked for the back of their jersey etc. TV ratings were also down for leaf games.

    This year we saw the leafs win the lottery. Nobody really knows how as it was won as it was just a guy flipping through papers until he blurted out Toronto.

    Bottom line is the league is now figuring out that the money generated by leafs fans won’t always be there as planned unless they start winning again and so it has been mentioned that the rebuild needs to go as planned with future lotteries too. Not always winning but making sure good picks are available by not moving down spots in the draft order.

    The league saw for the first time that the fans have a limit and it scares the crap out of them as the leafs are their cash cow.

    More prospects to play with Marner please!

  • TheKert

    Who is the other player to sweep all 4 awards? I put together a table with all the award listing from their Wiki pages and came up with Brad Richards as the only other player with all 4.
    One thing I was unsure of was if any of these MVP awards had previous versions with separate lists of winners, he OHL season award for example wasn’t handed out until 1999 s I would have missed if there were a different award that the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award replaced. I also didn’t go back further than that 1999 date to see if anyone won either the WHL/QMJHL one and swept the rest so I guess could have missed someone in one of those earlier years.

  • SEER

    So true, Jeff… and grteat article..! But.., some ofg them are listed even taller than they really are.. Gilmour is closer to 5′ 8″.. They do this with a lot of players..

    Marner will do just fine..

    All about Marner in these blogs, so I’m adding thjis in here..

    Complete all goals/season montage, for Nylander..

    William Nylander / Center shoots R /
    Born May 1 1996 / Calgary, ALTA. /
    19 yrs. ago /
    Height 5.11 / Weight 184


    2015-16 Toronto Maple Leafs – NHL
    22 Games… 6 Goals… 7 Assists… 13 Points… +1
    2015-16 Team Sweden U-20 – WJC
    3 Games… 2 Goals… 1 Assists… 3 Points… +2
    2015-16 Toronto Marlies – AHL
    38 Games… 18 Goals… 27 Assists… 45 Points… +8 *PPG+
    14 Games… 7 Goals… 4 Assists… 11 Points… +3

    Wonderful William: ALL Of William Nylander’s 2015-16 Marlies, Leafs & WJC Goals & Highlights – TML


  • SEER

    Thanks to some “woosey” idiots at You-Tube, they made my video worse, than the original.. and.. screwed this video up yesterday, as it was done along with the Nylander one above… So since I have now been given some names from friends at GOOGLE.., California, of who is working here in Canada.. and what shifts.., I want to say to the little boy who has been doing this to me, that you are indeed.. a woose..

    If you don’t want me to post your fiull name in here (and all the other hockey sites, Facebook, etc..) I suggest you apologize and change your ways.., or you might be looking for work, soon..


    Mitch Marner
    Right Wing/Center — shoots R
    Born May 5 1997 — Thornhill, ONT
    19 yrs. ago
    Height 5.11 — Weight 170


    2015-16 London Knights – OHL
    57 Games… 39 Goals… 77 Assists… 116 Points… +45 *2PPG+
    18 Games… 16 Goals… 28 Assists… 44 Points… +30 *2PPG+
    2016 Team Canada U-20 – WJC U-20
    5 Games… 4 Goals… 2 Assists… 6 Points… +/- 0
    2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup – CHL Top 4
    4 Games… 2 Goals… 12 Assists… 14 Points… +10 *3PPG+

    Marvelous Marner: ALL Of Mitch Marner’s 2015-16 Goals (Reg.Season/WJC/ OHL Playoffs/Mem. Cup) – TML


  • silentbob

    The only issue regarding Marner and size you can bring up is his current weight. Marner is listed at 164 lbs. The average forward int he NHL 204 lbs and the average D-man is 210 lbs. Weighting 164 would make him one of the lighter (ie – smaller) players in the league. I’m sure he’ll work out during the summer and put on some weight, but he a teenager, there is/will be a factor of time in Marner (like all people) filling out and growing into his body.

    Is he too short to be an NHL player? No, hes probably average. Will his CURRENT light weight prevent from being a successful NHL player? Of course not, nor will he be 164 lbs in 1-2-3 years. Nor does it mean he can’t compete in the NHL next year. But it raises the question…..why expose a teenager who would be one of the smaller (At least in terms of weight) players next year when there is no reason they have too?

    Plus, if they don’t sign Marner and leave him in the OHL, as far as I know he’ll won’t be eligable for the expansion draft and the Leafs don’t have to use a protection spot for him.