(I promise I’ll try to take him seriously throughout this post)
After taking all of that picture in, I think it’s about time to dive into 1/3 of Toronto’s “Big 3”. Every single time you see Mitch Marner on the ice, it’s tough to forget that we have Arizona to thank for this wonderful young man (I’ll be sure to link the video where Arizona drafts Dylan Strome 3rd overall over Marner). The off season is a time of reflection (and signing John Tavares), so why not reflect on Marner’s brief career so far.
Last season Marner improved on his rookie season, driving his point totals from 61 is 2016-2017 up to 69 (nice) this past year. Last year, Marner split time with two different linemate pairs, those being Bozak/JVR and Kadri/Marleau. As his playing time was almost 50/50 with each pair, I’ll analyze all 4 of them alongside Marner.
|Marner With||TOI With||TOI Away||CF% With||CF% W/O
(Stats via naturalstattrick.com)
I’m just going to go out on a limb here and make the statement that playing with Marner makes you look pretty darn good. There’s a pattern, even when looking at D pairings on the ice that Marner tends to inflate their CF%, which bodes very well for the young Leaf. One could say that Marner is a star at 5v5, but its hit 5v4 numbers that show how much of a freak he truly is.
|5v5||TOI||Goals||First Assists||Total Pts||S%||iCF|
|5v4||TOI||Goals||First Assists||Total Pts||S%||iCF|
(Stats via naturalstattrick.com)
In more than 900 minutes less, Marner was destroying his 5v5 numbers. It’s no understatement when it’s stated that “Mitch Marner is a freak at 5v4”. This is likely due to the fact that with more open ice, Marner has extra room to work with, which is allowing him (and JVR last year) to walk over the opposition. I’d love for Marner to find a way to make that extra room at 5v5, but honestly, with him playing with Tavares this year, his results are going to skyrocket anyways.
Marner was drafted as a winger with the possibility of being a C, but that likely won’t happen due to the depth through the first 3C, and in the fact that if injuries arise, it will likely be Nylander stepping in to fill the gaps.
Marner has firmly established himself as a first/second line winger (really what’s the difference in this years lineup?) through his point totals and ability to drive play.
In terms of a production snapshot, Marner looks to have went slightly backwards even though he posted 8 more points than last year, this can largely be blamed on being shifted between two lines for most of the season, one of which had the notably offensive disaster that was Leo Komorov on it.
Either way, Marner still arrives in a high percentile. I absolutely cannot wait for how this is going to look after the upcoming season of playing with Tavares. Marner has always been a pass first type of player, and I am curious to see how that will stack with someone who is elite in that category. Will Marner end up forcing Tavares to score more? Will Tavares force Marner to score more? Even split? Who knows, but their visions combined will be an amazing thing to watch.
As can be seen, Marner has improved incredibly in his second year, not only has he become stronger when exiting, he’s become even stronger in the offensive zone, a large part of which was likely due to him having his PP oppertunites. Just think about how this will look even better once he’s playing with a 98th percentile passer. Stats-wise, you guessed it, Marner is looking as good as he does by the eye-test.
Mitch Marner is unquestionably one of the best forwards on the Leaf’s, and will look even better when skating with Tavares, or on the PP with Matthews, Tavares, Rielly and Kadri. Marner is heading into his contract year, which is a huge one for him as his production could net him a hefty payday, even though one not far off of Nylander’s (yet to be seen) contract is realistic. Realistically, due to his line mates this year, Marner is more likely to make significantly more than Nylander, best case, he puts up similar numbers and Leaf’s ink him to a deal near 7-ish, but honestly, if that were the case, there’s no way that his agent wouldn’t run with a bridge deal, but worst case, Marner puts up point-per-game numbers with Tavares and we get him for 8-8.5 million. That first number is much more friendly, and who’s to say that Marner doesn’t take a slight cut to help the Leafs down the road. All in all, Marner is a core piece of this team, and will be around for good, along with the rest of the “big three” + Tavares. So let’s all enjoy him lighting it up with Tavares this year, and ignore the impending contracts of him or Matthews.