Behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel at the 2015 NHL Draft, there was a great debate surrounding the third overall pick.
The Arizona Coyotes held that pick and had to make a decision between Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner.
In Strome, scouts saw a big, strong center with a tremendous passion for the game. He could score plenty of goals and had the awareness to be an elite playmaker as well. In all, he is a cornerstone-type player which you could build a team around.
On the other hand, Marner offered a dynamic offensive talent that rarely comes around. With elite hands and vision, he creates scoring chances each time he takes the ice. Overall, he is an extremely talented player who has the ability to rack up points and make his linemates better.
The slight difference to separate the two? Strome was a natural center standing at 6 feet 3 inches with a more mature shot, while Marner was a much smaller winger who thrived on playmaking.
In the end, the Coyotes selected Strome at third overall, with the Toronto Maple Leafs then drafting Marner at fourth.
How Did They Stack Up in 2015-16?
Both Strome and Marner returned to their respective OHL clubs for 2015-16, looked upon to be leaders of not only their teams, but of the entire league.
Strome led the Erie Otters to the regular season title with a 52-15-1 record, totalling 105 points. Meanwhile, Marner’s London Knights had 105 points themselves, with a 51-14-3 record, losing out on the league title because the Otters had one more win.
1: Marner – 39 (12th)
2: Strome – 37 (16th)
1: Marner – 77 (2nd)
2: Strome – 74 (4th)
- First Assists:
1: Marner – 51 (2nd)
2: Strome – 46 (3rd)
1: Marner – 116 (3rd)
2: Strome – 111 (4th)
- Primary Points:
1: Marner – 90 (2nd)
2: Strome – 83 (6th)
1: Strome – 229 (21st)
2: Marner – 227 (24th)
- Goals Created Per Game:
1: Strome – 0.732 (5th)
2: Marner – 0.728 (6th)
- Face-off %
1: Strome – 62.52%
2: Marner – 49.77%
While Marner led Strome in all major offensive categories, the margin was extremely small. Meanwhile, Strome had more shots on net and created more goals for his team per game. He was also better in the face-off department, which was expected.
However, in the playoffs Marner has been outstanding. Thus far, he has scored 16 goals and 39 points in just 15 games. Meanwhile, Strome added a still impressive 10 goals and 21 points in his 13 games.
Comparing the two at the IIHF World U20 Championships, they each scored four goals and six points in five games as members of Team Canada.
In all, the two teenagers were ridiculously close in all categories during the 2015-16 season. Just like at the end of last year, the slimmest of margins are separating the two players. So, who is the better prospect a year after being drafted?
Who Is the Better Prospect?
This is a painstakingly difficult question. Strome and Marner are so close in every single aspect of the game that neither of the two standout as the better prospect.
In the end, Marner was the winner of the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL MVP for 2015-16. He took over the Knights squad and eventually led them to a series sweep over Strome’s Otters in the Western Conference Finals.
@jakeGabbert It’s tough because I favor big centers (Strome). But it’s hard not to see Marner killing it on A. Matthews’ wing in the future
— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) May 3, 2016
So, it should be safe to say that Marner had the better 2015-16 season. But does that necessarily mean he has a brighter future?
Taking a closer look and comparing the scouting reports for the two, Marner comes away as a better skater with ridiculous hands and vision, while Strome would be considered a stronger center with a better shot and a more all-around game.
For the sake of choosing who the better prospect is on this day, it would have to be Mitch Marner. He seemed to find another level this year and developed an ability to be a game-changer each night.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean that Strome won’t become one of the best in the NHL some day. He has enormous potential and is on track to become the leader of the Arizona Coyotes in the near future. He could definitely rack up north of 70 points annually in the NHL during his prime years.
What it does mean is that Marner likely has the higher ceiling. Not only does he possess elite talents, but he is already surrounded by high-end prospects in Toronto. William Nylander is one of the most highly touted prospects in hockey right now, and Auston Matthews will also likely become a Leaf via the 2016 NHL Draft, where Toronto holds the first overall pick. With such an elite core, things will only get easier for Marner, who could be an 80-point winger in his prime.
Is There Still a Debate Between Strome and Marner?
These phenoms are two of the most exciting prospects in all of hockey right now, both of which are expected to provide a huge boost to their respective team’s rebuild. It seems all but certain that they will each play their NHL rookie season in 2016-17, and that should get fans excited.
— Joe (@jdonato77) April 28, 2016
While Marner continues to play in the OHL Finals right now, Strome is resting up and training for next season. So, while opportunities to compare the two will be put on hold for about five months, the next time you see them play should be on the NHL scale.
In order to make a conclusion as to who the better prospect is, we will have to wait and see how they adapt and transition to the NHL game. That should provide more concrete evidence as to who has more potential.
As for now, let’s leave it at this: Marner had a slightly better 2015-16 season than Strome, but the two remain as close as ever in overall talent and potential. Both look like locks to become elite NHL players within the next few years, when the debate may still be ongoing as to who the better pick was.
Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.