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The timeline makes little sense.

Mitch Marner, the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round pick, typically wears No. 93. That number is usually an homage to former Leaf captain Doug Gilmour that is made every year by beer-leaguers throughout the GTA.

In Marner's case, however, it's more like an homage to the homages. He was born in May, 1997; Gilmour was dealt to New Jersey a few months earlier. The only time Gilmour spent in a Leafs uniform in Marner's lifetime was for 4 minutes 51 seconds in 2003, when the then-39-year-old warhorse was injured in his first game back in Toronto following a late-season trade. He retired at the end of that year.

Apparently those few shifts made an impression.

"Doug Gilmour" was Marner's answer when asked why he wore No. 93 as a high-scoring junior with the London Knights, an impressive career that resulted in his hometown NHL team selecting him fourth overall in June. "And my brother's [birth year] is '93. He's been a big part of my life. And watching Doug Gilmour growing up, rooting for the Leafs."

Regardless of the math, this makes for a good story, especially with how similar the smallish, skilled forwards look on the ice. Marner heard the comparisons often last season as he racked up 126 points in 63 games to finish second in Ontario Hockey League scoring.

The number also speaks to how long it's been since the Leafs had players who were so beloved by the next generation.

He was on the ice in Toronto on Tuesday morning in a situation full of that blue-and-white symbolism – he was wearing a Leafs jersey, and he was at what was once Maple Leaf Gardens. He posed for his hockey-card picture with a few dozen of the NHL's top prospects and fielded questions on everything from Gilmour to what playing for his hometown team will be like.

"Crazy," he kept saying, again and again, when asked how it all felt.

"If someone would have told me this when I was younger, that I'd be standing with a Leafs jersey on, I would have told them that they were crazy," Marner offered. "But crazy things happen. I think if I play a preseason game, my heart's going to pump so fast I'm not even going to know how to feel."

Preseason will likely be the extent of Marner's NHL audition this year, although there are miles to go before that decision gets made. Leafs rookie camp opens next week in familiar territory for him – London – and then he'll join the big boys a week later in Halifax.

Marner has added weight – "about five to 10 pounds," he says – but there's plenty more room for growth. He is also only four months removed from turning 18, making him one of the younger 2015 first-rounders. The rebuilding Leafs, meanwhile, are in for a long, hard season.

Another year dominating junior – perhaps with a scoring title and a key role for Canada at the world juniors – makes the most sense. The Leafs are aiming for a slow build through youth, and they've been drafting for potential, not immediate promise.

Marner will be the worthy face of that movement for years to come, even if some of those years are spent in junior and the minors getting stronger and savvier.

Putting on 93 right now, as a Leafs prospect, with all the comparisons that would invite and all the media backlash it might generate, could be the very definition of crazy.

So on Tuesday, when the prospects met the media, the space where Marner's number should have been on his jersey was blank, symbolic given most of the other big names were confirmed. Connor McDavid had 97 on an Oilers jersey, Jack Eichel wore the Sabres' 15, and Dylan Strome was No. 20 with the Coyotes.

Marner? He is awaiting an assignment at camp, not turning down No. 93 but also not being so bold as to assume it – no Leaf has worn it since Gilmour.

"Obviously he wore that number," Marner said. "It's a great number. He represents everything in Toronto well. Whatever number they give me I'll be happy with."

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