Toronto Maple Leafs: Can Mitch Marner be a Selke Trophy level player?

Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Discussing one of his best offensive performances with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mitch Marner explains why he wants to be a Selke Trophy candidate.

We all know how much of a dynamic player Mitch Marner has been for the Toronto Maple Leafs but when it comes to how he wants to improve as a player, there is no doubt for him.

Joining Sportsnet’s Watch Party from the Leafs’ thrilling 8-6 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 23, Marner’s performance will be remembered for a couple of reasons. Namely the two goals and five points he had to lead the team to a wild victory.

The highlight from that game came when Auston Matthews made a spin-o-rama move to set up Marner. Despite that, the Leafs were still trailing but Marner took care of this by setting up Tyson Barrie for a goal before he took matters into his own with a nasty goal to put the Leafs ahead.

More from Tip of the Tower

It truly was an incredible display of offensive ability and it reminds us of what the Leafs are capable of. Of course, this same Hurricanes group was also responsible for handing Toronto their most embarrassing loss in recent memory.

In this particular game, a big part of the offensive boost was because of Sheldon Keefe‘s decision to put Marner on a line with Matthews and Zach Hyman. Since that game, the trio have been a lethal line for the Leafs and answered the prayers from people wanting the Leafs’ top players to be paired together.

However, while Marner certainly enjoys seeing the puck and would enjoy winning a scoring title, that isn’t the trophy he wants to work hard to win one day.

"“I don’t think scoring race. I mean, it would be great to win that. The one that I always really kind of set a mind on and set a goal on is the Selke, the two-way player [award],” Marner said when asked about being capable of winning an Art Ross Trophy. “I think that one is something that I always want my name to be a part of.”"

Marner has certainly taken some responsibility for his defensive game since joining the league. He has been putting in time on the Leafs’ penalty kill which is not something every superstar player does and he started getting voted for the Selke as well last year.

At the same time, when you consider the players who are usually selected for the Selke Trophy, it takes more than just being on the penalty kill. ESPN listed Patrice Bergeron, Anthony Cirelli, Sean Couturier, Ryan O’Reilly and Mark Stone as their finalists for the award and it’s hard to not argue with that list.

So if Marner wants to get himself in the conversation for the award, he needs to consider what these players do to earn the reputation. Part of it comes from their ability to be leaders on the penalty but also at 5-on-5 where they are dynamic two-way players.

The Leafs winger certainly has the offensive part of his game down, but does he play the tougher defensive that Cirelli, Couturier or O’Reilly play? It might be tough to compare Marner with those players because they are all centres, but it’s certainly something he will have to work towards.

When you look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, you also wonder if Marner is even the top defensive forward on the team? I would make the argument that Hyman would be more deserving considering he is the workhorse on the team, has received voted for the Selke in the past and has made improvements to his offensive game while still having his normal defensive responsibilities.

Even Brendan Shanahan believes that Matthews is more than capable of winning a Selke Trophy too and it’s hard to not see why considering he has the size and instincts to be a consistently strong defensive player.

So if Marner wants to put himself in the conversation, he has examples to model his game after but even if he doesn’t win the award. Having that mindset will benefit him as well.

Next. Reviewing each Leafs top prospect's season. dark

What do you think about Marner’s desire to be a Selke level player? What does the Toronto Maple Leafs winger need to work on to get there? Let us know in the comments below.