Mitch Marner, The Hart Of The League
Source; Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images
The Toronto Maple Leafs are having a fantastic start to the season. They currently sit atop the North Division and are playing a very appealing brand of hockey. While the likes of a McDavid, Matthews and Draisaitl have stepped up in a big way, there's a name that might be a dark horse for the Hart Trophy, and that would be the Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner.
Marner is currently third in scoring and has been one of the driving forces when it comes to the Leafs’ success. This past Saturday he banged out a three point game and added another assist Monday. Marner has been an assist machine, he's in the top five in assists and was riding a 6-game point streak until he ran into the Habs. It should be noted that during that span, Marner registered 11 points. He also became the fourth player in Leafs history to hit the 20 point mark in 12 games.
He's been the focus of the offence alongside Auston Matthews, who by the way leads the league in goals. Speaking of which, Marner has assisted on six of Matthews’ ten goals this season. His passing ability is at an elite level, he’s assisted on 31 percent of the Leafs’ goals this season, so needless to say, he’s played a big role in Toronto leading the league in goals.
The biggest addition to his game this season is his efficiency. He vowed to be more aggressive shooting the puck coming into the season, but his shot totals are still pretty low. However, he’s made the most out of his opportunities potting six goals which are second on the team, behind Matthews. He's also mustered two game winning goals.
The Leafs’ powerplay has also been one of the best in the league in large part to Marner’s effort with a man advantage. His seven assists on the powerplay is second best in the NHL, and with the help of new assistant head coach Manny Malhotra, Toronto’s PP struggles from last season are a thing of the past.
A lot of his success early in the season should be attributed to Sheldon Keefe's confidence in the star winger. After a not so productive bubble showing last year, it would have been easy for Keefe to take it slow with Marner coming out of the gate. However, with increased ice time and more responsibility, Marner has earned his head coach’s praise.
“He’s very smart with how he conserves his energy, seems to be in great shape and seems to be able to go forever, whether it’s the power-play minutes or the penalty-kill minutes.
Marner has never been a slow starter so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone he’s come out hot. But this year he looks more focused on the ice and determined to help the Leafs win games. While McDavid, Matthews and Draisaitl will get the majority of the attention, Marner has earned his fair share of respect. If Marner continues this pace the Hart Trophy just might be in his grasp. The Leafs are the best team in the league and they might have the league's MVP as well.