In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll focus on the strength of Mitch Marner’s game. While I know that many Maple Leafs’ fans have a dislike for Marner, it’s hard to dispute his overall effectiveness as a player.
I’ll also look at the on-ice scoring relationship between Marner and his linemate Auston Matthews. Both are rapidly rising up the historical ledger of highest-scoring players in Maple Leafs’ history and will likely both reach the Top 10 in franchise history this coming season.
Item One: Mitch Marner’s Growth as a Player Over the Past Two Seasons
Mitch Marner has played with the Maple Leafs for six seasons. During those six seasons, he’s played 427 games. Over those games, he’s been more than a point-a-game player, registering 455 points (scoring 138 goals and adding 317 assists).
For all the bad feelings his protracted salary negotiations caused with a certain segment of Maple Leafs’ fans (and I’m one of them, I admit), he’s still been a really good young player for the Maple Leafs after they drafted him fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
His game has morphed over the past few seasons. Specifically, last season he added goal-scoring to his skill set and became more than just a passing winger who force-fed Auston Matthews pucks that helped him win the Rocket Richard Trophy.
In addition, for as gifted an offensive player as Marner is, he’s every bit as good a defender. He’s one of the best 200-foot players in the NHL. Although Marner is still only 25 years old, he’s quickly rising up the leaderboard in terms of the Maple Leafs’ scoring history.
Currently, Marner stands 16th in Maple Leafs’ all-time scoring. Matthews is 15th, and his 457-point total is just two more points than Marner has scored. If both of them get “only” 83 points this season, they’ll rise to the Top-10 in Maple Leafs’ scoring. Right now, the 10th spot is held by Rick Vaive with 537 points. That’s a lot of points for these young players.
Having covered the Maple Leafs for the past four seasons, it’s been quite interesting to watch the emergence of these two young stars. The Maple Leafs are so interesting to watch because their lack of success in the postseason colors almost everything else about the team.
As I begin this regular season, I’ve made a note to myself to enjoy the play of these two Maple Leafs’ players more without getting so angst-ridden about the postseason (OK, until the postseason actually arrives). Other fans can engage the season as they wish, I’m just going to try to relax and enjoy watching the team.
Marner’s the only Maple Leafs’ winger in franchise history to ever be voted to the NHL’s first-team all-star two seasons in succession. That’s a big deal, and it’s something to appreciate considering how tough the competition is.
Item Two: Can Mitch Marner Hit 100 Points this Season?
Moving from Marner as a career Maple Leafs’ scorer, how will he do this season? He’s not yet been a 100-point player during any season. Can he (will he) hit the 100-point mark this season?
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Answering that question goes almost hand-in-hand with the same question I asked yesterday about Matthews hitting 60 goals. Both linemates feed off each other’s success. Last season, Marner scored at a 110-point pace and ended up with 97 in 72 games played. So he has the potential.
His career-high 97 points were 10th in the NHL last season. His 35 goals were also his highest goal total and he led the Maple Leafs with 62 assists. Matthews and Marner also tied for the fourth-best in the NHL for point-pairing (which means they had points on the game goal in 49 games on the season.
Marner was also second on the Maple Leafs with plus-23, only trailing linemate Michael Bunting who was plus-27. Matthews was plus-20. He’s one of the top right-wingers in the NHL and should (if he plays enough games) be able to beat the 100-point mark this season and for many seasons to come.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
More and more, I’m reading about other Maple Leafs’ writers almost certainty that William Nylander will be traded. I’ve written about the logic of that myself.
While it might happen, it would be a shame. Nylander’s himself, for all the good and the not-so-good. However, he’s a productive player. Last season he led the Maple Leafs in power-play points with his NHL career-high of 31. That tied him for 13th in the NHL. He also recorded his highest goal total with 34, assist total with 46, and point total with 80.
Nylander also shows up during the postseason and is better than a point-a-game player during the playoffs (with 15 points in 14 games) over the past two seasons.
He’s good – I’m predicting an 85-point season in 2022-23.