Maple Leafs Taking the Right Approach With Marner

Months of debate and speculation is essentially the norm in hockey mad Toronto. Every decision, whether it is big or small, is put under the microscope in order to analyze every potential scenario. One of the biggest decisions of the off season was who the Maple Leafs would select in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Much of that decision hung on the actions of the Arizona Coyotes, the team drafting before the Leafs. In the end they took scoring centre Dylan Strome from the Erie Otters. The Leafs were then able to to make their selection of Mitch Marner from the London Knights. In the past, the Maple Leafs have rushed their high prospects into the NHL without giving them the proper development time. With a new coaching and management team in place, those days appear to be over.

Learn From the Past

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Luke Schenn (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The most recent example of a player the Leafs rushed into the big leagues is Luke Schenn. The young  defenseman, who was selected fifth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was dealt for current Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk. Schenn was struggling mightily at the time of the deal and failed to find and recapture his level of play from his rookie season.

The result was him finally getting dealt. The Maple Leafs gave him too much responsibility at a young age and he wasn’t able to effectively develop into the top pairing NHL defenseman the Leafs thought they were getting.

Marner and the Future

The Maple Leafs have seemingly learned from their mistake with Schenn. Take William Nylander, the Leafs first rounder from 2014, as an example. The Leafs didn’t rush the talented Swede into the NHL right out of the gate. Instead they sent him back to the Swedish Hockey League, where he was able to play and develop against men. Then he was sent to the Toronto Marlies where he thrived in the latter part of the season.

Mitch Marner will be brought along the same way. The slick forward is currently representing Canada at the national development camp. He has been dominate and dangerous and looks to continue impressing in the hopes of being selected to play in the World Juniors this coming winter.

The Leafs are taking a smart approach. Marner is going to go into camp and compete for a spot. If he falls short of his NHL bid, he will go back to London and most likely rip up the OHL for another year. He had 126 points this past season before being drafted. The World Juniors should also come calling, especially if Marner continues to excel at the development camp.

It’s a new and exciting time for the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have some excellent young prospects coming up through the system who are looking to make an impact in the NHL one day soon. If the Leafs continue to bring them along slowly, once they hit the NHL they will be ready and mature enough to succeed. Slow and steady is the name of the game. It’s a proven approach that holds big dividends for the future of this franchise.