The Toronto Maple Leafs will not rush Mitch Marner.
That's the simple message espoused by Mark Hunter, the club's director of player personnel, who is perhaps more familiar with Marner than anyone, having watched the youngster firsthand while working for the OHL's London Knights.
Marner is currently impressing Hockey Canada brass at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Calgary, but it won't change Toronto's approach to his development.
"It’s slow and steady and there is nothing wrong with that," Hunter told Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun. “It’s what I keep saying: 'Don’t push too far ahead.' We have to get him stronger and he will get stronger. He wants to work at it."
While his skill is undeniable, Marner's 5-foot-11, 160-pound frame will likely warrant a return to junior, despite his best efforts to impress at his first NHL training camp in September.
Another season in London for Marner would be just fine by Hunter.
"We’ll see what he can do in camp, but if (Marner is cut), he will go back to London and have a good season, play for Canada (at the 2016 world juniors in Finland)," Hunter said, "and after his season as an 18-year-old, he would be ready to play in the NHL, hopefully."
Marner, who signed his entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs after being selected fourth overall at the NHL Draft, recorded 44 goals and 82 assists in 63 games for the Knights this past season.