Minten represents a fun change of pace for this year’s Top 25 Under 25 list. He is the first player on this list who we can legitimately say has a chance to be an impact NHL player.

For most of the other players we’ve ranked before this, there’s been a similar conversation around certain type of players. They are all players who were/are very good in their respective junior or European leagues, but who have the same general projection as long shots to make the NHL. They may be offensive leaders now, but they’re going to have to learn how to play less offensive roles to carve out roles in the bottom six. Learn how to kill penalties, be defensively reliable, be able to eat minutes without getting out scored and out chanced against other bottom six lines.

And yet with Fraser Minten, the script is being flipped on its head. Now we’re talking about a player who is already being penciled in as a third line center of the future because of how good he is defensively, physically, killing penalties, and so on. But the big question will be how much his offensive skill can be developed for the future.

So let’s talk about that.

The Player

Fraser Minten is a 6’1” center from Vancouver, drafted out of the WHL in the second round after the Maple Leafs traded down in order to get rid of Mrazek’s contract. Minten played on a very strong Kamloops team, working his way up to their second line center by the end of the season.

When he was selected, Minten was seen as a bit of a reach. Most outlets had him ranked at the very end of the second round at the earliest, but he was also seen as a late riser because of how strong he finished the season. His 55 points in 67 games didn’t look spectacular, but there were some important bits of context that make his whole point totals misleading.

  1. He started the season further down the lineup, not getting much playing time and no time on the powerplay to rack up more points. Even by the end of the year he was on the second PP unit, not getting as much time as the first unit.
  2. He averaged an estimated 14 minutes of ice time per game for the whole season.
  3. He finished 7th in the WHL for his age group in total primary points and even strength primary points.
  4. He finished 5th in powerplay primary points, despite not playing there much to start the year.
  5. Combining regular season and playoffs, he improved his production from 0.76 points and 2.86 shots per game to 0.93 points and 3.79 shots per game.

If you want a breakdown of Minten’s strengths and weaknesses, what I wrote in my full profile of him after the draft still holds true. But here’s a quick summary: He’s big and uses it well, can be physical but isn’t a goon. He’s a smart offensive player, with good but not elite skills across the board. He’s a better playmaker than a goal scorer, and is more about making effective and efficient plays than flashy, skill plays. He seems more likely to be a good two-way third line center in the NHL, but if his offensive skill develops enough he has a non-zero chance to become a decent second line center.

This will be an interesting year for Minten. His WHL team, Kamloops, will be hosting the Memorial Cup, so we should expect them to load up for a championship run similar to what Saint John did this past season. The only major player they had from last year that won’t be returning is Toporowski, who aged out and turned pro. They will still have top prospects returning in Logan Stankoven, Caedan Bankier, Matthew Seminoff. So we can expect Minten to play as the 2C again this season, but he could see his average playing time increase compared to last season, and could have stronger linemates.

What we’ll want to see from Minten is an improvement from his last season, and I’m not talking about points. We’ll want him to become a dominant two-way force, relied on by his coaches to play a shut down role against the other team’s top lines. But we will want to see him not just shut them down, but score against them. With Toporowski going pro, Minten has a chance to take a spot on the top powerplay. He’ll likely be used on their top penalty kill.

Minten still may not get as many points as we may hope, just because he won’t get the top minutes of Stankoven’s top line. But we should see an improvement to being a good chunk over a point per game. If he does explode and sees a big leap in his production to go with his solid two-way play, we may hear his name come up in the conversation about Canada’s World Junior roster this winter.

The Votes

All nine of the voters had Minten in their top 15, somewhere between 7th and 14th. Six of the nine voters had him in their top 10, myself included — I had him 8th. For me, I had Minten at the bottom of my tier that contained the legitimate prospects. He showed a lot of growth last season, and Dubas has a history of taking guys who explode in their post-draft seasons — Robertson and Knies, most notably, but also Abramov, Voit, Niemelä, Tverberg, and Miller to lesser extents.

If that happens again, I think there is a non-zero chance that Minten pushes for a top five spot at this time next year. Some of that may be from players ahead of him not being eligible for the vote next year, but also because of just making a known quantity where most people don’t know much about him yet. And like Knies, he is a kind of prospect that the Leafs do not have a lot of — though he’s not really the exact same as Knies either.

Fraser Minten Votes

Josh - Smaht Scouting9
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak8
Weighted Average9.56
Highest Rank7
Lowest Rank14
Spread in Votes7

Here’s what the other voters had to say:

dhammm: This is a situation where I defer to prospect cohort success models like Byron Bader’s and Patrick Bacon’s, both of which really like Fraser Minten, giving him a higher probability of becoming an impact NHLer and even a star than a lot of the Leafs’ prospect pool. I suspect that this is because of his close to a point-per-game D-1 year and his sustained production over a longer scale; ramping production in his draft year would’ve caused these models to go ballistic. But looking at these models, which see a centreman prospect with a modicum of star potential, he gives the Leafs’ pool a prospect with a much higher ceiling than the depth roles more easily forecast for the players listed below him. I am willing to bet he will have a D+1 hype campaign season like Robertson or Knies had.

TomK421: The shiniest of the shiny new toys. For a guy I’d never heard of before the draft he’s a pick I was very happy with after doing my homework. A well rounded, high floor centre is exactly what the Leafs prospect pool was lacking and the potential for more is very enticing. More points this year to make the more casual fans notice should really get the hype train rolling, especially playing for the Memorial Cup hosts.

Hardev: Is Fraser Minten the next Frederik Gauthier or Anthony Cirelli? Where within that spectrum does he end up? Based on the raw numbers from last season, I’m not sure there’s much potential above the bottom six. However, as Brigs described, Minten might be in a position to break out offensively (thanks moreso to usage than anything else) and up his total appearance. In terms of my voting for him, I think it was very clear he would end up in the tier above the fourth line scrappers and below the sure-fire guys. Jury’s still out on Niemela and Hirvonen.

Will Minten crack the top 5 in next year’s rankings?

Only if he has a monster season and makes Canada’s WJC roster254
Only if a couple of the guys ahead of him are traded AND he has a monster year63
He’ll make it close but won’t quite make it151
Nope, he won’t be able to until he has a good pro season.70