Knights’ Marner looking forward to testing his ability on the world stage

By Jason Menard
Mitchell Marner - London Knights

Photo: Canadians hope to see London Knights forward and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner celebrating a number of goals for Team Canada in late December and early January when the 2016 World Junior Championship is taking place (courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

 

 

OHL scoring dynamo, highly regarded Toronto Maple Leafs prospect – London Knights’ Mitch Marner can claim a lot of titles , and the most recent is Hockey News Cover Boy.

Marner appears on the current issue of the publication and it is all related to the major role he is expected to play for Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championship.

“Yeah it felt pretty cool. Obviously it felt pretty good getting that call and going down to do that – it was pretty cool,” he said. “It was nice to wake up to that phone call and get invited, for sure.”

Team Canada’s camp starts this coming weekend and Marner is expected to play a key offensive role for the team. With the Toronto-centric nature of the Canadian sporting media, combined with the ravenous appetite that Canadians have for the WJC, one would expect that there is a ton of pressure on the Thornhill, ON product. But Marner is playing it cool.

“Pressure? Not really. I don’t really think about it too much,” he said. “I just go out and play hockey – that’s my main goal. I don’t really want to focus on anything else than London and playing hockey.”

Marner said he spoke with current Arizona Coyotes forward and former Knight Max Domi last year about his WJC experience. He said Domi gave him some solid advice – and one caveat.

“I talked to him a little bit last year about it – how he liked it and what to expect,” Marner explained. “He said just leave everything at home and don’t focus on anything but just playing hockey. So that’s the main goal.

“He said it was a lot of fun — if you guys do well.”

There are a number of potential World Junior participants in the Knights’ dressing room, but the chatter – and trash talking – hasn’t started yet because there are still too many unknowns.

“We haven’t talked about it yet. Really other than Olli [Juolevi, with Team Finland], nobody’s made the team yet,” he said. “The guys still have to try out, so anything can happen at tryout camp.”

That being said, there could be four or five Knights missing from the lineup come late December – including the starting goaltender and a number of top players. Marner said he expects the remaining team to step up and points to some recent history to back up that contention.

“It’s a lot of opportunity. We possibly could have our first line, or two out of the three missing, so it’s time for everyone else to step up and play well,” he said. “I think everyone in here can do that. Me and Devo [Christian Dvorak] weren’t here for the first couple of games [participating in NHL camps] and the team still came out with the wins.

“It’ll be a good test for them and see where they’re at.”

Marner said he expects to benefit from his experience this summer at the Toronto Maple Leafs’ camp, adjusting to the elite caliber of play at the tournament.

“Everyone knows it’s going to be faster – it’s all-around-the-world talent, so it’s fun to play in and get experience against other players,” he said. “Stuff I learned in Toronto is stuff that I’ll try to take with me there.

“I’m just going to go in and play my game, have fun, and try and do as much as possible to win games. Just making sure that I’m working.”

Marner said he has got plenty of memories of the tournament, having watched for years.

“Yeah, I think everyone Canadian did. I think my favorite one is the Jordan Eberle one, where he pulled out and went backhand and scored with five seconds left [in 2009],” he said. “That was a pretty crazy one.”

Being given an opportunity to create his own memories on one of hockey’s biggest international stages is something that Marner is excited about, but still coming to grips with.

“It’s pretty crazy. I think every Canadian kid dreams of doing that and being that kid,” he said. “Hopefully this year, I can do that and be that kid.”

Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard