Maple Leafs Getting a Competitive Edge with Cowan & Minten

Maple Leafs Getting a Competitive Edge with Cowan & Minten

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Brad Treliving has a busy summer ahead. The team has now settled on Craig Berube as their new head coach. Now, he gets to form his own group of associate coaches, which leaves Treliving to focus on upgrading the Maple Leafs roster for next season.

Management has reported their willingness to put everything on the table. They likely meant that they would look at the team’s core of players – the Core 5, so to speak. However, as a fan, I hope this isn’t entirely true. Change is necessary, but dismantling the team’s core goes against logic. The core players have brought the team to the brink of success, and a drastic overhaul would seem illogical. But change is coming.

The one thing I hope will happen, perhaps out of necessity for the team’s salary cap, is that the youngsters will get a solid chance to show what they can do. Pontus Holmberg lit it up in Prague with Team Sweden. He had a solid season with the Blue & White in 2023-24, but perhaps he’s ready to move further up the food chain.

Two other youngsters waiting in the wings would also have potential. Specifically, what should the Maple Leafs do with Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten?

Easton Cowan Seems a Perfect Fit for Berube’s Maple Leafs

Given new head coach Berube’s penchant for tough-minded players, Easton Cowan should become a key player for his team. Cowan is a bulldog, albeit in a smaller frame. He plays with an in-your-face style and brings high-end offensive talent that could be ideally suited for the Maple Leafs’ third line as soon as next season. This season, he’s showcased his entire toolbox in the Ontario Hockey League, leading his London Knights toward a Memorial Cup championship.

While there’s a lot of talk about moving Mitch Marner, don’t count on it happening. However, Cowan could become a “mini-Marner” with more fire in his belly. From what we read, Cowan embodies perfection for a Craig Berube-coached team, demanding relentless effort and showcasing his high-end offensive talent in the OHL. Like Marner’s standout season with the London Knights, Cowan produced at nearly a two-points-per-game pace, winning the Red Tilson Trophy and the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award.

Cowan’s game should translate well to the NHL, and his entry-level contract gives the Maple Leafs significant cap relief compared to Marner’s hefty salary. This makes him a valuable asset and allows the team to allocate resources to other areas of need – defense and goaltending. Although Cowan isn’t an exact replica of Marner, his drive, creativity, and finish make him a potential star. He’d give the team some of the same push as Marner at a fraction of the cost.

Cowan deserves a good look at the NHL level next season. While he has to adapt to the increased physicality, he seems more than ready. He’s had an impressive season, and his potential is obvious. Drafted 28th overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Cowan represents the type of bargain every NHL team needs. The question is whether it could happen next season.

Why the Maple Leafs Should Hold on to Fraser Minten

I’d love to see space made for some youngsters rising through the ranks this year, and Fraser Minten is one of them. I hear all sorts of noise that Minten is a potential trade candidate, but I hope that’s untrue. Why move a youngster with his upside?

Minten’s leadership attributes and character are valuable beyond mere point totals. That said, he does show offensive upside. He finished the 2023-24 season with 14 points in 16 WHL playoff games, showing his potential as an NHL standout. Maple Leafs fans got an up-close and personal look at Minten’s game during his four-game NHL stint to start this past season.

Of course, he’d be a valuable trade asset, and other teams would be interested in acquiring him. But the Maple Leafs should hold onto him. His leadership qualities and on-ice performance indicate that he has significant potential to develop into a critical player for the team. Trading him now would be premature; the team should allow him to continue growing within their system to see his full potential and leadership capabilities.

Keeping Minten allows the organization to nurture a homegrown talent who could become a cornerstone of the team’s future. His growth and development could offer the team leadership and skills that are invaluable in the long run. Letting him develop to his full potential could be more beneficial than any immediate return from a trade.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs have two young potential stars in Cowan and Minten. It’s time for a change in the team’s attitude toward employing youngsters. Coaches and management will never truly know the kids’ NHL potential unless they play more.

Together, Cowan and Minten have the skills and potential to make the Maple Leafs’ roster work. Their development is crucial for the team because it provides cost-effective talent to support its core. Both deserve a good look at the NHL level next season, offering the team the chance to maintain competitiveness while managing the salary cap effectively.

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