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Say hello to Easton Cowan, the Leafs first round pick from the 2023 NHL Draft. And as is inevitably the case, he's not simply allowed to be a prospect, but a foil for arguments about the NHL team today. Let's begin his T25U25 profile with what Easton Cowan is, and what he isn't.

Easton Cowan Vitals
Age as of July 1 18.12
Position C
Height 5'11"
Weight (lbs) 170
Shoots L
Draft Year 2023
Draft Number 28

Who Easton Cowan is

The characteristics that stand out when it comes to Easton Cowan the hockey player include his hockey sense, motor, skating, and creativity.

His hockey sense comes to the fore in situations where he needs to win battles to the puck or once he and his opponent are already there. He knows how to use the high end speed he has for his age to make the most, and he had flashes of showing off his ability to play at a high pace in the second half of his season.

As a farm kid, and I'm sure for many other reasons, Cowan works harder than most others in the OHL, which gives him a leg up in winning battles and getting making the most of chances. He can think himself out of trouble as well as be able to move himself (or the puck) out of trouble.

Projecting these skills forward, I can see a very good defensive forward, in not many different ways to Mitch Marner; also a London Knights graduate. Whether he can break out offensively and get his thinking of the game from great to generational is what'll separate him from Marner. Don't hold your breath, but also realize I just threw out a virtually impossible bar.

Being able to think yourself out of trouble is one of the primary skills to have defensively for all skaters in professional hockey. Those who can do it faster and more efficiently, spend less time racking up GA.

Some of the factors that might hold Cowan back, or stall his development, is if he no longer becomes the hardest worker in the AHL – which is a big jump in terms of average competitiveness than the OHL. Are his physical traits a product of gaining muscle sooner than the 160 lbs lamp posts littered around the OHL? Or can he keep growing, keep developing, and keep getting better?

One thing that might help with that part is knowing the Leafs often get players they believe are at the beginning of a growth spurt or development curve, and help them through that process.

Brian wrote a three behemoth articles following the Draft, all focused on Cowan, but also not quite on Cowan. He talked about the prospect in depth, but also analyzed and evaluated the Leafs drafting process. I highly encourage you to read it (or read it again if you've already been through it!).

Getting to Know Easton Cowan Part One: Stats and Context
When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Easton Cowan with the 28th overall pick, it produced a mixed reaction. But Toronto has done the same thing with Knies and Minten, so is Cowan set to follow the same path?
Getting to Know Easton Cowan Part Two: Scouting Breakdown
Breaking down the specific strengths and weaknesses of Easton Cowan’s game, using scouting reports and video clips. This covers his skating, puck handling, passing, shooting, physicality/defense, and hockey smarts.
Getting to Know Easton Cowan Part Three: Overall Assessment
Looking at a final, overall assessment of Easton Cowan, his future projection, and if Toronto was right to use their first round pick to draft him.

Who Easton Cowan is Not

I think the biggest problem Leafs fans have with their top prospects are themselves, especially when they were first round picks. Because their draft day always comes on the heels of months of wallowing about what could've been in the playoffs, and if only the team had used the pick at the deadline, or used it now at the Draft for some help, or traded back for more, or or or. Every idea under the Sun except for the kid who gets to put on the hat.

So going into a prospect's tenure with the organization, there are already pages and pages of expectations that aren't connected to the prospect at all. Baggage. I don't see how it's fair at all to put the opinion of a prospect under this lens once reality played its course.

But unfortunately it's already started as the Leafs, who need to get bigger, didn't draft a big guy. And the guy they did draft might be short, even! I can't for the life of me understand why this teenager isn't John Tavares, especially with Ryan O'Reilly gone.

I'll admit I fell slightly into this world when ranking prospects, because my optimism for the Leafs top centre prospect, Fraser Minten, is so high that a prospect who plays a different game to him fell by the wayside.

I'll admit this also came from Brian's incredible three-part series on Easton Cowan (linked above), which became both a thorough prospect report and analysis, but also a dive into the Leafs draft process as a whole. I don't blame Brian for it, but it's another example of there being so much about what Cowan is not around Cowan himself.

While I think we were both able to separate that outside stuff from our rankings, the pattern is there. On that topic, I stand by my ranking, because there are some prospects and players of today who I think highly of that I wanted to place higher, but there might have been room to believe in Easton Cowan for who he is, not who he's not.

When you write maybe 6,000 words on a prospect, it's bound to happen. And it's also worth saying the prospect Cowan is today at the young age of 18 years old will be out of date in the short future. Prospect analysis is a constant exercise in re-evaluation and not holding onto priors when prospects shift and change and evolve and grow. Just look at what Timothy Liljegren was supposed to be before his draft year.

The Votes

There is plenty of optimism coming from the voters for Cowan, both from high vote placements and those hoping to be proved wrong in 12 months or less time. I am definitely in that second group.

Voter Vote
adam 17
Brian 11
Hardev 11
Cathy 5
Catch-67 11
Species 11
dhammm 18
Zone Entry 4
bballgordie 11
The Bag 6
Weighted Average 10.5
Max Vote 18
Min Vote 4

Brian: My approach to ranking Cowan was the same as I had when ranking Minten or Knies in the past. I was skeptical of those picks as well initially, and while I could see some of the logic I wanted to see them have the breakout and development before fully buying in. Knies blew me out of the water. Minten about met the expectations I had overall. For Cowan, there's not much else I can say about him that I didn’t already in that three part breakdown. What I want to see from him this season is to hit the ground running on their top line. Continue getting time in all situations, but start showing more consistently high level offensive ability. If he follows the Fraser Minten track for his D+1 season, he should be something like a 1.20 point per game guy. If he can take a big step in his offensive development, it could be even better but I will remain skeptical until I see it.

dhammm: Another good kid, another nice story, and another zippy little winger prospect. His profile suffers among the prospect analytics people because he’s small, he scored less than a point per game in the OHL in his draft year, and he played most of his D-1 in the GOJHL This unlike Knies and Minten, who the same prospect analytics people liked a lot more than the fanbase did at the time. Cowan’s microstats, his dynamic play in the second half of the season and the playoffs, and the prospect of more all-situations playing time and more opportunity suggest he could have an explosive D+1. I hope I am eating crow over my pessimism by Christmas.

Cathy: I don’t know, man, if 5’11” and already 170 is considered little, well I’m confused. He’s taller than Alex Kerfoot and David Kämpf and he’s well on his way to a powerful hockey body at 18. Shove a bag of flour down his pants and he is Kämpf. I’ve decided to believe in him. And I’m going to … well, hold on, there’s a story. Many years ago, there was a Fanpost at PPP that railed against Appeal to Authority. It was terrible, so it said, to ascribe any value to the thoughts and opinions of the so very stupid people who ran NHL teams because, well, that’s an appeal to authority. The argument is a tautology that didn’t really grasp what the fallacy means, but instead said that anytime you just listened to an expert, you were doing the bad thinking, and you should do your own research. That all reads a little differently these days, doesn’t it? But I shall now appeal to some authoritative opinions of people, some of whom are “bad” in many minds: Mark Hunter, Dave Morrison, Wes Clark and ultimately Brad Treliving. They all think Cowan has it, and that focusing on one year of OHL counting stats ain’t gonna find you the “it”. And I know for a fact they all know more than me about this guy. I know for a fact we all tend to undervalue late first-round picks who are new, and I know the Leafs didn’t take this guy on a whim. They think he’s a player. I’ll buy in. Argue with me and I’ll write an ode to farmboys and their work ethic. My only regret is I should have ranked him second.

Catch-67: I’ve seen enough that I like from highlights and scouting reports of Cowan that I’m pretty sold on him as a decent pick at 28. He looks like he’s got solid offensive skills combined with the kinds of tools and work ethic that would suit him well in a transition from top-six to middle/bottom-six player. That seems pretty swell for a 28th overall, and a 28th overall is pretty darn swell compared to most of the prospect pool.

Zone Entry: I ranked Cowan quite high because the Leafs decided he’s legit first-round talent, I chose to believe them, and there’s not a lot of that kind of talent in our cupboard.

Where do you stand with the Leafs top pick? Let us know in the comments!

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