Mark Hunter is returning to the OHL as general manager of the London Knights. Hunter mutually agreed to part ways with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in May. That came shortly after The Maple Leafs promoted Kyle Dubas to the role of general manager, a position Hunter was also considered for. After three months of evaluating potential NHL positions, Hunter will return to a familiar role with the Knights.
Former Maple Leaf Assistant GM Mark Hunter Returns to OHL
“I am very happy to be back in London,” said Hunter. “We have a strong group within our organization and I look forward to returning to work with everyone to develop an even stronger team for our fans and for our city and the community.”
History With The Knights
Hunter is a part owner of the Knights, along with his brother Dale Hunter and Basil McRae. The trio purchased the Knights in 2000. Mark Hunter was GM of the Knights for 14 years until he moved to the NHL. During his first term as GM for the Knights, Hunter won three J. Ross Robertson Cups as OHL champions. The Knights also won the Memorial Cup in 2005.
During Hunter’s four-year stint in the NHL with the Maple Leafs, the Knights won another Memorial Cup, in 2016.
History With The Maple Leafs
Hunter joined the Maple Leafs in 2014 as director of player personnel. In 2015, after Dave Nonis was fired, Hunter and Dubas became co-interim GMs until Lou Lamoriello was signed as GM later that year.
When Lamoriello’s contract expired in 2018, the Maple Leafs, as planned, moved Lamoriello to an advisory role. Lamoriello chose to leave for a general manager role with the New York Islanders instead. Once it was clear Lamoriello would not return as GM, it was widely assumed that the role would be passed along to either Hunter or Dubas. Eventually, as many expected, the role was given to Dubas.
The Maple Leafs might have kept Hunter as an assistant GM due to his knowledge of minor league players and his drafting ability. His most notable contribution to the current Maple Leafs roster as drafting Mitch Marner. Many believed the Maple Leafs would be more interested in a defenseman at the time, Noah Hanifin.
The Maple Leafs drafting team was divided on whom they should draft in 2015. But Hunter was able to convince the group Marner was the right choice. Three years later, after Marner led the Maple Leafs in scoring in 2017 and Hanifin is already on his second team, it appears Hunter made the right call.
Why Not The NHL?
It’s likely Brendan Shannahan always had Dubas as the front-runner for the role of GM. But Hunter wouldn’t have been a bad selection either. Although selecting Hunter, may have meant Dubas was the one leaving the organization. There has already been at least one NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche, interested in Dubas’ services.
With Lamoriello moving to Long Island, many suspected Hunter would follow. This time being the front-runner himself to take the reins when Lamoriello either retires or moves on.
By heading back to the OHL, it’s clear Hunter will not be satisfied with another assistant GM role. There are only 31 GM positions around the NHL. Hunter is not one of them because, at the moment, no NHL teams are looking for a new GM.
What’s Next For Hunter
Moving back to the OHL will allow Hunter to focus on the next crop of NHLers. He’ll be performing the role he ultimately wants to perform in the NHL. And as an owner of the Knights for nearly two decades, he’s back in familiar territory. It’s hard to argue it would be better for him to play second fiddle to someone in the NHL when he can be in complete control of an OHL team.
Eventually, NHL positions will open up. Keep an eye on a couple of Toronto’s Canadian division rivals, the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadians. A role as GM may be available for Hunter sooner than people think. Until then, Hunter will continue to do what he does best.
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