Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fraser Minten has high hopes for 2023-24
Photo credit:Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation
By Steven Ellis7 days ago
Talk about a wild 12 months.
Fraser Minten’s dream season began on July 14, 2022, when the Toronto Maple Leafs made his dreams come true by selecting the Vancouver. B.C. native 38th overall. He then took the short drive from Montreal to Toronto to participate in his first NHL development camp, resulting in a spot at main camp.
Soon enough, Minten was dressing for Leafs’ preseason games. And on Oct. 13, 2022, he signed his NHL entry-level contract.
And that was just the beginning. Throw in a career-best in points and a trip to the Memorial Cup, and it was a year to remember for the young forward.
“It was amazing,” Minten said with a smile while looking back at the year at Leafs development camp in July.
Minten is coming off of a 31-goal, 67-point run with the Blazers. He had a quiet postseason, and he had just one assist in the Memorial Cup, but it was an experience very few in junior hockey get the chance to realize each year. Playing in high-pressure situations was important for the young forward, who just turned 19 in July. Kamloops fell short, with Quebec beating Seattle for the title, but Minten was there for the experience.
“It was probably the most fun hockey I’ve ever played in,” Minten said. “Seeing the environment and the community, and the competition level with it being so intense and the stakes being so high, it was so much fun.”
The Blazers will look much different in 2023-24, as teams typically do after a Memorial Cup run. Logan Stankoven, Caedan Bankier, Daylan Kuefler, Matthew Seminoff and Olen Zellweger were all huge pieces of that group, but are moving on to the pro ranks. That means Minten – heading into his fourth season with the team – is going to be vital.
Recently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in The Leafs Nation’s offseason rankings, there’s a lot of eyes on Minten this year. Going 38th last year felt like a bit of a stretch at the time, even for a solid WHL producer. But the Leafs want him for much more than putting pucks in the net. It’s his tenacious energy, his physicality and his dangerous one-timer that makes him so difficult to defend against. A player that can score in close and land some big hits, while playing a strong transition game with good defensive stylings will open up opportunities.
“His shot, he’s got a really tricky release, a good release,” Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser said at development camp. “And I think it’s just evolving his tenacity and his assertiveness and the way he plays the game to be able to dominate more in just different areas of the game (that) when he steps out on the ice, other players know, ‘Okay, this guy’s out there and he can hurt us,’ at the WHL level.”
As for what Minten thinks he improved over the season, he didn’t get too specific.
“I think a bit of everything,” Minten said. “I don’t think there’s a specific area that’s gotten a ton better. I think just progressively. I don’t think I got a ton stronger, bigger.
“We played a lot of hockey this year so there wasn’t much gym time. But I think with being on the ice so much, you get more comfortable skating, you just improve your skills, get more comfortable with little battles.”
Minten will participate in his second Traverse City Prospect Tournament this weekend as Toronto faces off against the likes of Columbus, Dallas and Detroit. After turning heads at development camp, the big center is looking to take charge in Michigan before kicking off training camp with the big club. Minten should factor into the team’s preseason plans, and, who knows? Maybe he’ll even get a meaningful game or two if he stands out.
Minten’s goal for 2023-24 is simple: dominate the WHL. And he’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with in his final year of junior hockey. A reasonable plan could see him spend a year in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies in 2024-25 before making a bigger push to become a full-time NHLer the following year. A lot can change between now and then, but Minten is the best center in the system – and if the Leafs have their way, they’re not going to be picking early any time soon.
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