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Easton Cowan was the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round selection (28th overall) from the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) London Knights in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. One of the first things that strikes you about Cowan is his youth and his size. He turned 18 years old at the end of May, and he’s only 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds. 

But, as the old saying goes: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” The Maple Leafs believe Cowan’s determination and spirit are more important than his physical size. They believe he’s a young player with a strong will and determination who can overcome obstacles, regardless of any disadvantages he might have.

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Cowan’s a young talent who’s known for his spirited hard work. Yet, he also has a smile that just seems to light up the room. Just listening to this youngster talk, he gives you the impression that he’s filled with personality and drive. He seems like a genuinely nice young man. Next, we’ll see how he’ll play.

Cowan’s Hockey Journey Thus Far 

Cowan’s recent hockey journey has been with the London Knights in the OHL. During the 2021-22 season, he played seven games, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Last season, his performance jumped. Playing 68 games, he scored 20 goals and added 33 assists (for 53 points), but it wasn’t the regular season that sealed his draft selection. During the playoffs, he contributed 21 points (scoring nine goals and 12 assists) in 20 games. 

Easton Cowan London Knights
Easton Cowan, London Knights (Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

In addition, he showed something the Maple Leafs wanted. He was tenacious, determined, and driven. Just on the cusp of 18 years, Cowan’s statistics underscored his growth and potential. For the Maple Leafs, that was enough to convince them of the bright future that awaited him in Toronto. They jumped and far earlier than anyone expected.

The Interesting Story Behind His Name

There’s a unique story behind his name especially in the hockey world. Might it also ring the bell of destiny — just a bit?

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Named after the sport he’s attempting to excel in, Cowan’s first name “Easton” is also the name of a prominent brand in the hockey equipment industry. Interestingly, when he was asked about that in an interview, he smiled and noted he was a CCM guy.

As a note, in the video above of the Hockey Writers Maple Leafs Lounge, Maple Leafs’ writers Peter Baracchini and Jim Parsons discuss Cowan’s upcoming season. 

The Path to Recognition: From Draft Year to Present

So, what should Maple Leafs’ fans expect of Cowan? Although his draft year might have seen him fly somewhat under the radar, his explosive second half grabbed the attention of Maple Leafs’ scouts. That standout performance solidified his reputation as a potential star.

Related: Maple Leafs Bet Big on Payoff with Cowan Pick

The team’s swift decision to sign Cowan to an entry-level contract (ELC) also shows the organization’s confidence in his potential. The team clearly believes in his abilities and the contract demonstrated they stand behind him as their choice. Signing an ELC this early is more than a formality — it’s a statement that the Maple Leafs see him as a key part of their future.

Expect Cowan’s Development to Be Slow and Steady

Fans should know that Cowan’s progression will be approached with patience. The Maple Leafs intend to return Cowan to the London Knights and hope he can dominate for this entire season just as he dominated during the latter part of last season. This approach helps ensure his growth is nurtured steadily. Don’t expect him to be rushed into the NHL spotlight any time soon.

With the Knights, Cowan can thrive while he develops his skills under the watchful eyes of their coaching staff and the Maple Leafs’ scouting team. Given that he’s only 18 years old, it seems wise to allow him to develop at a slower pace. In fact, the decision is also pragmatic. There really would be no space for him on the big club’s roster right now anyway. Better to go slowly and try to set the stage for an easier transition to the professional (and eventually NHL) level.

Planning for Cowan’s Future Promise

In the segment of The Maple Leafs Lounge above, both Baracchini and Parsons stress the significance of Cowan’s gradual advancement. They envision Cowan’s journey moving forward — another year in the London system, followed by a transition to the AHL, where his progress can be closely monitored. They note that the Maple Leafs are committed to offering him the time and resources he needs to mature both as a player and a professional.

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As the 2023-24 season approaches, Cowan finds himself at a pivotal but comfortable career juncture. He’s been drafted, he showed well at the Maple Leafs’ development camp, and he’s signed an ELC. Now his job is to go back to his old Knights team and hit the ice hard. That also makes sense in a way because Cowan noted that London’s Nazem Kadri was his favourite player growing up.

Nazem Kadri
Former Toronto Maple Leafs’ Nazem Kadri (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer)

Cowan knows what the organization expects. He knows they’ll be patient but he also knows they want him to thrive. Sending him back to London with a clear directive to dominate seems like something he should be able to handle with confidence. As well, knowing that the organization will take a slow road with him also allows him to keep his head on straight. He won’t have to worry about anything past what’s immediately in front of him as he engages in his season.

Cowan’s Plan Makes Good Sense

Cowan’s eventual growth to the Maple Leafs’ roster seems to be well-crafted. It both benefits him as a player and helps the organization. Who knows how it will go, but the plan seems flawless to me. That’s about as good as it can get for right now.



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