When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Easton Cowan with the 28th overall pick, it produced a mixed reaction. For the most part, I think people were somewhat confused or uncertain because Cowan was not someone who had been mentioned as a potential first round puck by any public scouts and media outlets. Honestly, the reaction and the story that came out afterwards was very reminiscent of the Fraser Minten pick the year before – including how much higher Toronto drafted him compared to his final draft rankings.
Craig Button was one of the highest on Cowan, ranking him 34th, and likened him to Chandler Stephens. Here are other rankings from various public people and groups:
- hockeyprospect.com – 29th
- Bob McKenzie – 53rd
- Dobber Prospects – 55th
- Elite Prospects – 66th
- Smaht Scouting – 68th
- McKeen's Hockey – 78th
- FC Hockey – 118th
At this point, we're in very familiar territory when it comes to the Maple Leafs taking a prospect with their top pick who seems surprising at first glance but shows a lot of growth after. Matthew Knies is the best known example, as a 2nd round pick everyone (including myself) reacted with confusion and annoyance just looking at his stats. But he immediately, as in that very summer off-season before his freshman year in the NCAA even started, was showing how underrated he had been. He had a huge leap in his development right away, and made everyone admit they were wrong about him.
Fraser Minten is arguably a more similar case as Cowan, given they were both taken higher and closer as far as the order of picks. Minten so far has seen some growth, though his D+1 season he dealt with a number of injuries that likely muted how good he could have been. But most fans now are probably at least satisfied with the pick, even if there were some others who were taken after that look better as of now – gotta wait to see how they all wind up in the NHL, and that won't come for a few years still.
So, let’s talk more about Easton Cowan and see if he follows that same script. This will be the first of a three part series breaking down who Easton Cowan is as a prospect, because having 6,000+ words in one post miiiiiiiiiiiiiight be a bit too long.
Weight: 170 lbs
Birth date: May 20th, 2005
Easton Cowan is a farm boy from a farmer's family, as told in his post draft profile by the Athletic.
When the pandemic hit in 2020 and Cowan’s time in high school classes became limited, he began working on the farm from 6:30 in the morning till 9 at night during the busy farming seasons of spring and fall, driving a tractor beside the massive combine his father Chris uses to transfer crops.
In an scrum posted on the Maple Leafs' YouTube channel, Cowan was asked about his name and confirmed that, yes, he really was named "Easton" after the sports equipment company. So they're a strong hockey family I tell ya what.
Cowan was drafted by London in 2021, taken 25th overall in the second round. At the time, he was a 5'9" and 140 lb center who played in AAA for the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs. He was third on the team in his U15 season with 28 points in 32 games, which was also good for 14th in the league. During his U16 season the next year, there was that little thing called the pandemic and he played zero games in AAA – this was also the year he was drafted to the OHL by London.
At the time, he was drafted by London, Cowan was reportedly debating between playing in the OHL and NCAA – an increasingly popular route that Canadian prospects are taking. But London is a top tier CHL program, and eventually he was convinced to sign with London.
In Cowan's D-1 year, he played for the Komoka Kings in the GOJHL. London was a very deep team as always, and didn't think they had the room for a 16 year old rookie. In the GOJHL, Cowan dominated. In only 24 games he had 34 points, which was the highest point per game pace for his age group... by a lot. His 1.42 points per game was far ahead of the guy in second, who had 1.19 points per game. Cowan was called up to join London for the end of their regular season and the playoffs. He had 2 points in 7 regular season games, and 2 points in 5 playoff games.
It was a good sign for what was to come in his draft year.
Weight: 170 lbs
Birth date: May 20th, 2005
This year was Cowan's first full year in the OHL with London. They were a deep team again, and he started the season playing on the second line. But by the end of the season and in the playoffs, he was on the top line with Ryan Winterton – their leading scorer – and Denver Barkey, their third leading scorer and fellow 2023 draft pick.
In the regular season, Cowan finished with 20 goals and 53 points in 68 games, good for 5th best on the Knights. On the powerplay, he had only 3 goals and 7 points while he almost matched that short handed – 3 goals and 3 assists. He did have 119 shots, which is a low rate to have. For the entire OHL, Cowan finished 10th in the OHL for points by an U18 player, which is good but not great.
In the playoffs, however, Cowan again finished 5th on the team but had a much better rate with 21 points in 20 games. That was good for 11th overall in the whole OHL playoffs, and 2nd most for U18 players behind only teammate and linemate Denver Barkey. He had 1 goal and 8 points on the powerplay, and improved his shot rate with 65 in those 20 games.
In fact, Cowan's season saw a steady progression in his stats. Here are his monthly his points and shots per game, including both the regular season and playoffs which totals 88 combined games:
- Oct: 0.45 points and 1.36 shots
- Nov: 0.75 points and 1.17 shots
- Dec: 0.78 points and 2.00 shots
- Jan: 0.67 points and 1.25 shots
- Feb: 0.85 points and 2.15 shots
- Mar: 1.08 points and 2.50 shots
- Apr: 1.20 points and 3.20 shots
- May: 1.00 points and 3.56 shots
It's rare to see an almost smooth increase in production rates for any player, but in this case it reflects a few things. First, his consistency in terms of his performance. Second, the constant improvement he made over the season. Third, the rewards he got for his consistency and improvements in the form of more ice time in all situations, which helped improve his rates as well. Basically, as he played better he performed better on the scoresheet, and London gave him more time on special teams and at 5v5, which helped him perform better on the scoresheet, and that cycle continued all year.
I have to call out the fact that he only seemed to start getting powerplay time later in the year, and much more heavily in the playoffs. In the regular season, his 7 points on the powerplay and 6 on the penalty kill meant that he had 0.59 even strength points per game. In the playoffs, it was 0.65. If he had the same rate of powerplay production in the regular season, he would have had 27 powerplay points instead of 7. And that would bump his total production for the season up to 73 points in 68 games – suddenly that's not looking too shabby is it?
That will be something to watch for Cowan next year. He will have more of a role, getting more minutes in all situations, and in theory should continue to get better in his development. So we should expect him to have a big jump in his production compared to last year.
All of this context out of the way, tomorrow I will break down his game in detail. I will look at scouting reports and what I see myself in all the video I can find of his play this past season.