Easton Cowan has been an early standout for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By Steven Ellis2 months ago
Talk about a good first impression.
On June 28, 2023, the Toronto Maple Leafs left the scouting community scratching their heads when they selected Easton Cowan 28th overall. Given the team had just three picks, stretching for a player most didn’t think would get taken in the top 75 in the first round felt like a risk not worth taking.
Fast forward to Sept. 26, and “Cow Daddy”, as Mitch Marner calls him, has been one of the most successful players in blue and white so far. Of course, we’re talking about three rookie tournament games and an exhibition contest, but he led the Leafs with six points in Traverse City. He then kicked things off with two points in the first period on Monday against Ottawa, including the first goal scored at Scotiabank Arena in 2023-24.
It was some excellent passing work between Nick Abruzzese and Noah Gregor that led to Cowan’s goal, with the London Knights forward scoring from the slot – a familiar place during his OHL tenure. Cowan then had a secondary assist a few shifts later on Joseph Blandisi’s goal to cut Toronto’s deficit to one. He had a team-high four shots in the first period, and even drew a penalty shot attempt (albeit unsuccessful).
Cowan then nearly scored on a partial breakaway late in the third period, giving him another high-quality scoring chance. It was telling when Cowan was put on the power play in the final minute just how much Keefe liked and trusted his effort on Monday. And while he didn’t get a point on the game-tying goal, he was very involved in the play, just as he was in his multiple shifts in overtime.
Yeah, Cowan hasn’t played any meaningful hockey yet. But he’s making a damn good impression. Better than anyone else early on. And, dangit, that’s enough to get the fanbase excited right now.
“He’s playing confident, he has nothing to lose,” an NHL scout said. “He knows he’s going back to London, but he’s making it difficult to do it soon.”
A good defensive player, Cowan had 20 goals and 53 points in 68 games for the Knights last year. Solid numbers, but hardly first-round quality. He exploded for 21 points in 20 playoff games, showing some nice offensive flair to go along with his two-way play.
If there’s anyone that saw Cowan’s early performance coming, it was the Leafs themselves. They consulted with analytics firms ahead of the 2023 NHL Draft, suggesting his actual performance outweighs his production. Given there are very few advanced statistics in the OHL for the general public, it’s hard for many to get a good understanding of that.
Cowan’s never-say-die attitude makes him difficult to read. He’s always moving, attacking the play and getting involved. The 18-year-old can get caught trying to do a bit too much too often, as seen on various occasions in the second period Monday, in particular. But the effort’s there, and with the proper refinement, Cowan could be a nice weapon in the team’s bottom six a few years from now.
That’s a topic for another day. But with rave reviews across the board, there’s a lot to like about Cowan’s game VERY early in the 2023-24 season.
“He brings a lot of pace and a lot of speed,” Marner said after Monday’s game. “I knew he was a great player, but to see it live…”
The Knights don’t open the regular season until Friday, and with Toronto’s game on Wednesday in St. Thomas – not far from where Cowan grew up in Strathroy – you have to think he’ll factor into at least one more preseason game before getting sent down.
Only time will tell if the Cowan pick was the right one by Wes Clarke and the Leafs’ scouting department. But early on, Cow Daddy has done everything he can to look the part.
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