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Leafs stable

DAN CEARNS The Standard

While over the years, the Toronto Maple Leafs have traded draft picks and prospects to keep their hopes of winning the Stanley Cup alive, I feel the Leafs still have a strong stable of exciting prospects in their system.

I’ll start with the obvious, the last top draft choice the team made, Easton Cowan. While the decision to select him seemed surprising at the time, so far, it is looking like a great choice. Just recently, Cowan set a London Knights record with a 27-game point streak. For clarity, of just how special this record is, over the years, the Knights have had players like Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, Matthew Tkachuk and Patrick Kane come through their system. In just 45 games, Cowan has 79 points which is 26 more than he had all of last season in the OHL.

As well, there’s centre Fraser Minten. Minten was a surprise at Leafs training camp this season, surviving the team’s cuts and starting the regular season with the Leafs. He ended up playing four games with the Leafs before being sent to Junior. Combined between the Kamloops Blazers and Saskatoon Blades, Minten has 18 goals and 40 points in 33 games. He also has leadership qualities, serving as Team Canada’s captain during this year’s World Junior Hockey Championship. As the Leafs always seem to need depth in their bottom six centres, I can see Minten possibly making the Leafs again next season but likely spending the full year in the NHL.

Then of course there’s goaltending. Standing at 6’7” Dennis Hildeby has had a strong season so far with the Toronto Marlies. He has posted a 0.912 save percentage and a 2.34 goals against average, in 27 games, with the Toronto Marlies this season. This season is also his first with the Marlies, after coming over from Sweden. He’s already spent time with the Leafs as well, serving as their backup goaltender while Joseph Woll was injured.

There are a handful of other names who I can see making the Leafs or making the team more regularly going forward. These include: Topi Niemela, Alex Steeves, Mikko Kokkonen and Ty Voit. I’m also excited about the future potential of another goaltender prospect, Artur Akhtyamov.

As the Leafs continue to stay very close to the NHL salary cap, I can see prospects like these becoming very important going forward for the team.

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