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Maple Leafs’ Easton Cowan is reaching for the stars after MVP season

Easton Cowan (Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation)
Photo credit:Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation
Steven Ellis
10 days ago
A year ago today, many in Leafs Nation wondered what scout Wes Clark was thinking when they took Easton Cowan with the 28th pick.
Now, with an OHL MVP and league title under his belt, Leafs Nation wonders if the London Knights star will jump to full-time NHL action in 2024-25.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but the sky’s the limit for a young star with so much going for him. He’s participating in his second development camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs, hoping to get the summer started right with an excellent first impression.
Cowan almost started the season with the Leafs last year, staying with the team nearly until the end of training camp. Cowan didn’t get into any NHL games, but he did prove he could hang with quality competition during the preseason – and that’s all you can ask for from a late first-rounder just three months removed from draft day.
“Having the confidence that I could keep up with the big guys, it really helped me a lot in the OHL,” Cowan said.
And so it did. After starting off hot with London, he made Canada’s World Junior Championship team as a fourth-line energy forward. He scored 34 goals and 96 points in his second season with the Knights, a large step up from his 53 points a year ago.
From there, Cowan won the Red Wilson Trophy as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player – but he kept things rolling after that. He led the playoffs with 24 assists and 34 points to win the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as playoff MVP en route to his first championship as a major junior player.
Cowan ultimately fell short of winning the Memorial Cup after losing in the dying second of the championship game against Saginaw. One of the first visuals plastered online was a shot of Cowan staring down the Spirit as they celebrated the title – something many saw as a big learning experience for the teenager.
“It fuels us a lot,” Cowan said about the loss. “No matter what team you are going to play for next year, that team will take that to heart and use it to get better over the summer. We’re going to be brothers for life. No matter what team you play on next year, you’re going to use that for motivation.”
Still, it was a successful season, and Cowan believes he took big steps forward in his game this year to become Toronto’s top prospect.
“I just want to show I’ve gotten better since last year,” Cowan said after the first day of camp. “I just got a bit stronger, not only physically, but mentally… “I took some steps where I was able to move on and play with confidence.”
When you put up the production he did, it’s hard not to be beaming with confidence. And it came at a perfect time for a franchise that could use a bit of cheap skill and a boatload of energy over the next few years. A safe bet suggests Cowan will turn into more of a middle-six player who can force turnovers, bang pucks in around the net and kill penalties.
“As we got to know Easton and got the chance to be around him every day, I say nothing he does surprises me,” said Hayley Wickenheiser, an assistant general manager with the Maple Leafs. “He’s a really special kid, he’s very driven. He’s got a great motor on the ice.
“But even off the ice, he’s extremely fit, hard-working and he has a high self-belief, which I think you need to make it to the highest level.”
There’s a realistic chance that Cowan can stick around and start the year in the NHL, get a multi-game stint like Fraser Minten did a year ago, and try and translate that into an even bigger third – and final – OHL season. If Cowan does indeed return to major junior, he’ll be a big piece of Canada’s World Junior team next winter, where he might be counted on to provide big moments like he did all playoffs long with London.
Going back to London looks like the obvious plan, but Cowan isn’t focused on junior hockey just yet.
“It would be nice to make it far in training camp. Obviously, I want to play in the NHL,” Cowan said. “That’s been my goal since Day 1. That’s in mind, but I know it’s tough to get there. It’s going to take a lot of work.”
Do the Leafs think he can make the team?
“He’s going to make a push, Wickenheiser said.” Always hard to take that jump from junior, that’s a big step, but he’s proven everybody wrong at every level, so I don’t put it past him.”

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