The questions on whether Toronto would keep their first round pick has been settled, as Brad Treliving and the Maple Leafs drafted Easton Cowan 28th overall out of the OHL and the London Knights.
This was a reach of a pick. He was ranked 53rd on Bob McKenzie's list, with him being ranked highest by Craig Button at 34th. He's a 5'10" and 170 lbs, and while listed as a center it looks like he mostly played as a winger. In the regular season he had 53 points in 68 games, and then 21 points in 20 games during London's OHL championship run where they lost in the finals.
Those regular season points do seem low, but they are generally a stacked team and he did not play on their top line. His underlying tracking data looks pretty good, especially on transitions. Only 7 of his points game on the powerplay, where he will likely get more of an opportunity now that some of their older players age out of the OHL.
Here's what Elite Prospects said in their draft guide:
Elite Prospects Dir. of North American scouting Mitch Brown finished one of his game reports on Easton Cowan with this line: “He’s intelligent and creative, and, for the most part, doesn’t rely on advantages that he won’t have at the next level.”
The last part is what influenced our ranking of Cowan more than anything. Contrary to other undersized-by-NHL-standards CHLers who create by outspeeding and outdangling the opposition, the London Knights winger does it in a more projectable way – by outsmarting opponents. His hockey sense will remain an advantage at higher levels.
Of course, we would like for him to have blazing speed, multiple acceleration gears, and quick hands to go with it; these skills would make his NHL future more certain, but we do feel confident in his ability to adapt to the higher level of play. Even under high defensive pressure, the energetic Cowan should still be able to link passing plays in transition, manipulate defensive gaps with clever movements and feints, and find pockets of space in the slot.
He sees plays others do not and his passing skills and high motor made up for some of his skating flaws this season. He spotted teammates rushing in even behind defensive lines, connected with them with hook and slip feeds, and then skated as hard as he could to then join them on their attacks.
Here are some highlights:
My initial reaction of the trade is that it is underwhelming. If you wanted him, I am almost positive you could have traded down and still got him. Maybe there was no team willing to trade up with them, but there were several players I liked better ahead of him.
But, as always, I will be looking into him in more depth after the draft to see what I may have been missing. I did not have a big interest in him at any point this year so I wasn't really watching or reading a lot about him.