Fraser Minten impressing early with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By James Reeve6 months ago
Fraser Minten was the first selection made by the Toronto Maple Leafs in this year’s draft class, and he is already impressing many within the team.
The Leafs’ recent draft history has focused on landing prospects with genuine NHL potential in the early-to-mid rounds with their first rounders often packaged in trades that look to help the team win in the post-season.
Matthew Knies was the Leafs’ first choice in the 2021 Draft, taken 57th overall, and it is already clear that he has a bright future at the NHL level. Alongside him, however, could be Minten, who is already impressing both teammates and coaches at this early stage of pre-season. The Leafs had to wait until the second round (38th overall) of the 2022 Draft before they opted to select the 6-foot-2 Vancouver native, and the pick already looks like it could have been a smart one.
With training camp officially over and pre-season in full effect, Minten has found himself placed with Group 1 of the Leafs’ roster. This may not ordinarily count for much, as NHL teams mix up both groups to give their expected roster players more minutes on the ice, but what is interesting is the make-up of the group.
Along with Minten, who registered two shots on goal in the team’s 4-1 pre-season opener victory over the Ottawa Senators, is the team’s ‘big four’ forwards of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander, top defenceman Morgan Rielly and the team’s expected NHL goaltending tandem of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.
Bedding in with so many of the Leafs’ top talents can only be a positive for Minten, who will be keen to learn as much as he can in his first stint with the NHL club. It appears as if that learning process began even before training camp started.
Team captain John Tavares spoke to the media on Minten, revealing that he had spent some time with the 18-year-old this summer, while stating how impressed he is with him. Tavares described Minten as being a ‘heady player’ and a great kid; high praise from one of the league’s premier players over the past decade.
Couple that with the praise he received from head coach Sheldon Keefe, who spoke of his maturity and how he appears to have improved on a daily basis while with the Leafs, and it’s clear why there was trust in his ability to play on the penalty kill in the latter stages of his debut appearances last weekend.
Keefe believes Minten can develop into a responsible two-way centre, capable of killing penalties while also improving offensively. This would be a great addition to the Leafs roster when he is deemed ready to make the jump up to the NHL in the near future.
For now, though, despite impressing right out of the gate, Minten’s future most likely lies in junior hockey this season. He is expected to return to the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, the team the Leafs drafted him from after he posted a 20-goal, 55-point season in 67 games last year, adding 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 17 playoff appearances.
The Blazers’ season began with a 3-0 loss to the Portland Winterhawks last weekend, and they return to action this Saturday against the Spokane Chiefs. Undoubtedly, the team will be keen to have Minten back in the line-up, but he may stick around with the Toronto Maple Leafs for another few days before heading out west to resume his development with the team.
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