Mitch Marner is a legitimate early Selke Trophy candidate this season; the proof is in the numbers
BY EVAN DOERFLER
Since his streak began against the San Jose Sharks on October 27th, Marner has been an offensive juggernaut, but also a defensive stalwart, which has heavily contributed to the Leafs' recent success. Since the game against the Sharks, the Leafs are 10-2-4. Marner, who is not always praised for his defensive abilities, has 81 blocked passes (2nd in the NHL), has made 23 stick checks (7th in the NHL), and has racked up 16 blocked shots (10th in the NHL) over that span. Simply put, he has led the way in getting this team back on track.
With his abovementioned numbers, Marner is on pace to break his personal records in these categories. For example, Marner had 31 blocked shots last season, and he's already got 19 just 24 games in. Coming off a successful defensive season, one where he competed with the top Selke candidates, Marner looks to have improved on the defensive end yet again.
The current points leader in Toronto should be considered one of the best two-way players in the NHL to begin with. Marner's defensive contribution comes largely on the penalty kill, and his usage as a part of the special teams has been immensely important this season. In pressured situations, he has demonstrated his high defensive IQ and ability to think one step ahead, leading the Leafs to a 79.22% penalty-kill percentage this season.
Aside from regular statistics, his advanced numbers under the category of oiGA/60 (on-ice goals against) are through the roof just 24 games into the season. In his last season, Marner had an oiGA/60 of 3.6 and has seen a significant decrease to a staggering 2.9.
Being tied for 10th in the league in points this season, Marner is again proving why he is an elite two-way player. Through Marner's play, the Leafs have found their way to a four-game win streak, with the Leafs building off of the right-winger's early season success. Crazy to think that he takes as much heat as he does for his $10.9M cap hit. He quite clearly earns his keep year in and year out.