Maple Leafs First Round Selection Already Proving Doubters Wrong

Austin Kelly
September 16, 2023  (9:47)

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the 2023 NHL Draft came at 28th Overall, where the Toronto Maple Leafs selected London Knights Forward Easton Cowan, a pick that stunned many in the Hockey world, with some calling the selection a reach. But now that Cowan has hit the ice, he's begun to win people over.

Cowan Makes Major Impression In Leafs Debut

Despite the initial shock of Easton Cowan being taken so highly in the Draft, having not been ranked as a first-rounder prior, his first look of action in a Leafs jersey has been a positive, as Cowan managed to be a key player at the Leafs Prospect Tournament vs Dallas.
Cowan (#53), showed off qualities that made him a first Rounder, including his eye for the puck and strong elusiveness throughout the ice.
In this first clip, provided by Kyle Cushman of TheScore, you see Cowan react with quick instincts on a misplaced puck to force a turnover, setting up Ryan Tverberg for a good scoring chance. Cowan had the same ability to quickly change the tempo of the game in the OHL as well.
Another play, this time from Nick Richard of 'The Leafs Nation', showcases how mobile Cowan's game is, his speed and elusiveness able to connect with his Hockey IQ, able to weave through the Dallas end to set up a good feed. It's plays like this that demonstrate the level of awareness Cowan has on the ice, and how in tune he is with the puck on his stick. He can be dynamic at his best, and he's shown more of those moments as he's progressed.
The final play showcased from Kyle Cushman, shows a scoring chance from Cowan at the start of the 3rd period, where Cowan quickly takes the puck for a shot, which is saved, but it's impressive no doubt to see how accurate his release is for how fast he gets it off. Cowan is great at puck placement, not sacrificing quickness for accuracy, because he has both.

Easton Cowan's NHL Potential

Easton Cowan, not graded as a first round pick by any of the top Scouting services, was seen as a surprise taken 28th by Toronto. The 5'10 Forward had been ranked highest by TSN's Craig Button at 34, with fellow TSN draft analyst Bob McKenzie ranking Cowan at 53. EliteProspects ranked Cowan at 66 with DobberProspects ranking him at 55. EliteProspect's Consolidated Rankings, which aggregates draft rankings, put Cowan at 70, with the consensus seemingly being that Cowan was viewed as a 2nd-3rd Rounder, although a riser due to a strong OHL Playoffs. His second half was much stronger than his first, which is a potential positive in terms of his growth as a player.
What Cowan excels at is how quickly he reacts and adapts to the game around him. Even in the OHL, Cowan was able to analyze the game at a high level, reacting smartly to a change in tempo, or sniffing out a scoring opportunity. He plays a mature, fast-paced game with tons of creativity and speed, as well as having good chemistry with his London linemates, despite this being Cowan's first full OHL season. Cowan's 5'10 size may make for some obvious questions as all smaller players get, but Cowan has already confirmed he has begun to bulk up, weighing 170lbs during the draft, which should also solidify his less active defensive game. Cowan's future may be that of a middle-six forward, with it seeming likely that he could stick as a Center at the NHL level.
In 68 Games with the London Knights, Cowan had 20 Goals, 33 Assists & 53 Points, a big statement after having had 2 Points in 7 Games last year in the OHL, after largely playing in the Junior B level GOJHL. In the playoffs, however, Cowan took another big step, becoming a PPG player, scoring 9 Goals, 12 Assists & 21 Points in 20 Games, as the London Knights made the OHL Finals, losing to the Peterborough Petes in 5 Games. His 21PTS was 2nd among OHL Draft Eligibles, only 3 behind Knights linemate and Flyers 3rd Round Selection Denver Barkey.
While it is just a prospect tournament, much of what made Cowan one of the NHL Draft's biggest risers, and eventually, a surprise first-round pick, he's begun to prove he very well be worth the surprise pick that the Leafs put faith in, and may end up paying off more than well in the future for Toronto.
Maple Leafs First Round Selection Already Proving Doubters Wrong

Does this game change your opinion of Eason Cowan?

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No18429.6 %
Need More Time18730.1 %
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