They may not be the biggest guys, but William Nylander and Mitch Marner are both being groomed to play center, not wing, for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For a team that hasn’t had a truly elite center since Mats Sundin, it’s reason for optimism in Leaf-land.
“I think as a center you’re skating more and when you’re skating more you’re into the game,” said Nylander, per TSN.ca. “Center’s a position where you’ve got to be all over the ice; that helps me get into the game.”
Of course, while both youngsters have tremendous skill, their size and strength will be tested playing down the middle. Today’s NHL may be a more welcome place for smaller skill players, but that doesn’t mean big, strong centers have gone out of fashion. Successful teams like the Kings and Ducks are proof of that.
Marner, the smaller of the two top prospects, believes he’ll start his NHL career as a winger, and “then develop back into a centerman, try and get a little stronger on the draws and stuff like that.”