Mitch Marner’s Shot is the Key for Canada’s World Junior Team

Minutes after a game in which he recorded his second hat trick in as many nights, London Knights winger Mitch Marner told me he’s been “trying to shoot more”. The 18-year old winger has certainly been succeeding, too. On Friday, in front of a huge Sportsnet audience, Marner’s shot produced three goals in a 6-1 win over the Windsor Spitfires. Saturday evening, he made it rain teddy bears (it was London’s annual teddy bear toss night), followed by hats again as his five points led the Knights to a 7-2 victory against the Ottawa 67’s. Neither opposing team is a slouch, either. Windsor is right in the thick of a battle with London for position in the OHL’s Western Conference, and Ottawa is one of the hottest teams in the East.

With two hat tricks in his final two home games before heading off to join Team Canada’s World Junior team, one would think this is a good omen for Marner. He will be a crucial part of that team, probably playing top line minutes on Dylan Strome’s wing. The most important thing he needs to bring to Helsinki, though, is his shot. Marner has been criticized this season for being too selfless with the puck. Granted, his linemates Matthew Tkachuk and Christian Dvorak are certainly capable of putting away his perfectly threaded passes, but there have been times when a shot would’ve been much more effective than another cross-crease pass. London has an extremely potent power-play, led by Marner’s ability to cycle the puck, but there are certainly instances where a multitude of chances haven’t come to fruition, due to his hesitation to shoot.

So, fans of the Knights, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Team Canada should be excited that Marner himself has pledged to try and shoot more. Friday night was probably one of the only games of his most fans have watched this season, being on Sportsnet, and just from seeing that game you wouldn’t think there’s been a problem with Marner choosing to shoot:

But believe me, this is a change from the Mitch Marner we’ve seen a lot of in London. That’s not a knock on him, of course. He has been feeding Dvorak and Tkachuk beautifully all year, and it’s not this recent spell of goal-scoring that has him tied for the OHL points lead with 55 in 24 games. It’s certainly nice, though, to see him making use of one of his most underused weapons. In Finland, he’ll be needed for his skill and offensive abilities, as he likely won’t be relied upon defensively (although he did score two absolutely incredible shorthanded goals on Saturday), and he’ll have a lot more space to work with on the international ice, particularly with 6’3″ Dylan Strome clearing the way for him. So, Marner’s shot might be called upon as one of Canada’s greatest weapons.

Marner might not be the best player in the OHL (there’s a hot debate over whether it’s him or Strome), but he will absolutely be one of the most important pieces of the Canadian team, as he was in the Subway Super Series earlier in November against Russia. With linemates he’s slightly less familiar with, Marner might be more inclined to use that shot of his. That’s probably one of the significant reasons for the change in his play recently; to get more accustomed to a shoot-first mentality.

Mitch Marner is and always will be renowned for his soft hands and skating ability. But his wrist shot is just as lethal, and it can only be a good thing that he’s trying to use it more (except, perhaps, for opposing goalies).

Here’s Marner’s post-game comments from both Friday and Saturday’s games:

December 4th, 6-1 vs. Windsor Spitfires:

December 5th, 7-2 vs. Ottawa 67’s:

Main Photo:

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