Toronto Maple Leafs: Mitch Marner Magic

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Mitchell Marner
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Mitchell Marner /

Mitch Marner is one of the hottest players in the league. How did this turnaround with the Toronto Maple Leafs occur so quickly?

Since February, Mitch Marner has been one of the hottest players in the league. Last season, he played 77 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, recording 19 goals and 42 assists for 61 points.

This season in 69 games and counting, Marner already has 19 goals and 37 assists. Considering the fact he struggled to score for the first 48 games of the season, this is a really impressive turnaround.

Ever since Mike Babcock put Marner on a line with Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau, his play has flourished. Playing with two responsible veterans has allowed him to be more liberal and creative with his play.

When Marner was with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, he was forced to constantly look over his shoulder and think defence first. Now, he has his full trust in his linemates, his play has greatly matured and he has gained much more confidence.

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Confidence is a huge booster in everyday life and in hockey, it is essential. Marner lacked confidence in the early half of the season and was always trying to create something to no avail.

Now, Marner’s much more calculated with his approach. He’s got his head up the entire time and is constantly looking for a play to make.

It also helps that Marner’s shooting much more. Before, the defence and goaltender expected him to pass and blocked all the lanes. Now, he’s much more confident with his shot and that gives the goaltender an extra thing to think about whenever he has the puck.

However, Marner has not just been on fire offensively. Defensively, his habits have improved for the better.

Marners may be considered “small” according to NHL standards, but his trainer, Dan Noble previously had this to say about the winger’s underrated strength: “He is probably, pound for pound, one of the strongest players in the NHL.”

Marner uses this strength to win puck battles and stick checks ferociously. Combined with his elite speed and agility, it makes for a formidable opponent. His speed allows him to beat out icing calls and chase down the puck carrier.

All this improvement is definitely a result of playing with great two-way players in Kadri and Marleau. Both have helped Marner improve his two-way game, which has made him become a more complete and dangerous player.

Next: The effects of fatigue on the Leafs

The combination of the line change, increase in confidence, and his willingness to shoot more has created a perfect storm for Marner. And at the perfect time as well. The Maple Leafs are in the home stretch and they need their key players to start heating up offensively before the playoffs start. Hopefully, it is just the beginning for this young phenom.