Mitch Marner
Mitch Marner - Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Image

Mitch Marner’s performance coach talks about Marner’s development over the years and his offseason to date, Travis Dermott discusses his relationship with Kyle Dubas, and more in the links.

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Noble: Marner’s training has been on another level this summer (TSN1050)
Mitch Marner’s performance coach, Dan Noble, joined Landsberg in the Morning to discuss his development over the years and his work this offseason.

On what Mitch was like as a 13-year-old kid when they first started working together:

A really annoying, highly energetic kid that used to break a lot of things in my gym [laughs]. He was always highly energetic. The things that make Mitch, Mitch have always been him. You see him – he’s a ball of energy and positivity and loves to be around people, usually dancing or trying to get someone else to dance. Those things will never change, which is a good thing, I think.

On how Mitch has thrived in the spotlight of Toronto:

Obviously, you can’t deny that pressure that exists for him. But the positive thing that Mitch has is that he had a really tight circle of people looking out for him. He knows the people he can count on and listen to and go to during difficult times, whether it was with London or Toronto. He knows the people to lean on and seek out advice from when he needs it.

The one thing for him, being small and always kind of playing against the odds, he is so used to that. He loves when people kind of count him out. He loves proving people wrong. He is one of those guys – we talk about it in the gym – where pressure is a privilege. He’s always looked at it that way. He wants the spotlight and he wants the spotlight, whereas some guys will shy away from that. He wants to be right in the center of that.

On how Marner’s size and strength has progressed since the early days of working with him:

I want to say he was probably 5’5, maybe 100 pounds [at 13]. He was tiny. His dad might kill me for undersizing him now, but he was small. Very small.

When he got taken by the Maple Leafs, I think he was 165 pounds.

Starting last season, he went into last season at 174-175 pounds.

Today – that’s top secret information. I would say it’s been a very successful offseason for him that way. He is looking good. Our focus, though, with Mitch – and even with the Leafs training staff; we talk regularly – it’s not about putting on that five pounds. It’s just about getting stronger and more powerful. You just always have to be careful. Everyone is like, “If you put on that five more pounds…” If you think about it, it’s not that big of a difference, but when these guys get on the ice and all of a sudden they feel differently or move differently, for a guy like Mitch, that can change his whole game.

We test these guys regularly to make sure that, as much as we are going to get stronger and that can come sometimes with putting on weight, we are also making sure that we are not slowing them down and taking away from what makes them unique.

On how Marner’s 2018 offseason training has gone:

He trains at 9:30 every day and he’s in there for 2-3 hours. Depending on whether we have ice, he’d be on the ice once or twice a week right now, and that will crank up as it gets into August now. I’ll say this: He’s been on another level this summer. Last summer, we had a great summer, too, but there was a lot of change happening coming off of your first pro season and a successful one. There were a lot of things going on. He came in this summer the most probably the most focused I’ve ever seen him – and driven. It’s going to be exciting to see what this might translate over into. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him this focused and working this hard. It’s been translating over into the things we want to see improved on in the gym, and hopefully that will show on the ice as well.

On how driven by the John Tavares addition Marner has been and his comments that he’d like to be more of a leader in the room going forward:

It is a sign of the type of leadership that Kyle Dubas has brought in. Involving Mitch in that process was invaluable. It gives Mitch ownership over it. It makes him feel like he is involved. Obviously, he is involved. He is a big part of that.

I definitely think that it’s something that is on his mind – wanting to be recognized for the work he does in the locker room and off the ice. I’ve said it before: The one thing that people don’t realize that although Mitch brings a lot of levity to situations, he is probably one of the best locker room guys you’ll ever hear guys talk about just in terms of he knows when to switch it on and switch it off. I see it every day in the gym when he’s working out with guys three years or four years older than him. He is the guy driving the pace and pushing the competition level. It is going to be fun and exciting for people to see that side of Mitch as well.

Kelly: Mike Babcock’s biggest challenge will be setting up the Leafs PP (TSN1050)
TSN statistical analyst Mike Kelly discussed the “good problems to have” challenges Mike Babcock is going to have to figure out the lineup and power play units this season.

What is fascinating to me in terms of challenges for Mike Babcock is going to be the power play. You look at the power play last season, and Mitch Marner’s group, of the most used five-man units last season, was the most effective. They scored the most goals per 20 minutes of ice time. They were the most effective power play group in the NHL. Two of those players – Bozak and JVR – are no longer on that unit. What is the power play going to look like going into this season? You’ve got Auston Matthews who no doubt wants a bigger role, and John Tavares is an incredibly gifted player who is effective on the power play. But a lot of those goals went through JVR. He scored 10 of the 27 goals that five-man unit scored. The Maple Leafs don’t have that same net-front type player. There aren’t many in the league. It’s not to say they can’t be as effective. But it’s going to be different, and that’s going to be one of the big challenges Babcock will face.

Maple Leafs’ Dermott thrilled by Tavares, ‘awesome’ GM Dubas (Sportsnet)
“Oh, it’s awesome. [Dubas] has been great to me the whole time I’ve been with the Leafs organization,” said Dermott. “He cares more on a personal side than I’ve seen before with a GM. He really cares about you as a person and your relationships and your life — all that before hockey.”

Bourne: The NHL is shifting to more of a skill-first league, but have the Maple Leafs over-corrected? (The Athletic)
The Athletic’s Justin Bourne wonders aloud if the Leafs have gone so heavy on skill over four lines that they could run into some issues come playoff time with their ability to grind out results.

Bowen: ‘Maple Leafs will win Stanley Cup this season’ (Sportsnet)
Joe Bowen joined Prime Time Sports and didn’t shy away from a bold summer-time proclamation that has caused a stir — the Leafs are 2018 Stanley Cup champion favourites.

Marlies Offseason Update: Additions, Subtractions, and the work left to do (MLHS)
Mark Rackham takes a look at the work of new GM Laurence Gilman so far this offseason and what might be left to do before the 2018-19 season kicks off for the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies.