July 25th, 2024

World juniors the next stop in whirlwind season for ‘cerebral’ Leafs prospect Minten

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on December 15, 2023.

Fraser Minten had already played on three different teams two months into the season.

His latest stop in a whirlwind campaign could see him wind up with a medal hanging from his neck.

The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect is among 22 players selected to represent Canada at the upcoming world junior hockey championship in Sweden – with the red and white threads Minten’s fourth jersey since October.

He was a surprise inclusion on the Leafs’ opening-night roster before being returned to the Western Hockey Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers.

Minten barely had time to unpack. He wouldn’t be there long.

The rebuilding WHL franchise named the 19-year-old its captain – “for like 20 days,” he joked – before trading him to the Saskatoon Blades.

From there, Minten headed to Canada’s selection camp in Oakville, Ont., and was basically a lock from the moment he stepped on the ice.

“Complete player,” said Peter Anholt, who heads the country’s management group for the under-20 event. “He can play wing, he can play centre, can do a lot of different things. He’s detail-orientated.

“One of those Swiss Army knives that can fit in different ways up and down the lineup.”

Selected 38th overall at the 2022 NHL draft, Minten didn’t find the scoresheet with Toronto, but has five goals and 15 points in 13 combined WHL games with the Blazers and Blades.

The Vancouver product also knew his time back in Kamloops would be brief.

“It was front of mind,” Minten said. “If you follow the sport, it’s obvious. That’s how it works in junior. The bottom teams, if they have high-end players, they try to recuperate and accelerate their rebuild.”

Canada, which opens its world junior tournament Dec. 26 against Finland, is without a number of eligible NHLers – most notably Connor Bedard – but does have professional experience in Minten, forward Owen Beck (Montreal Canadiens) and defenceman Tristan Luneau (Anaheim Ducks).

“Fraser is such an intellectual player,” Anholt said. “He’s cerebral. He knows the game. He picks up things quickly. He brings us size, he brings a good shot.”

Canada is hoping for better performances from another Leafs pick when the team hits the ice in Europe for a trio of pre-tournament games next week.

Easton Cowan also got a long look at Toronto’s training camp before getting sent back to the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, where the 18-year-old winger from Mount Brydges, Ont., has 12 goals and 39 points in 23 games.

Despite naming him to Canada’s roster for Gothenburg, Anholt wasn’t thrilled with the 28th pick at the 2023 draft’s showing in Oakville.

“We need more out of him,” he said. “We need him just to compete hard, not quite be so fancy.”

Anholt indicated Cowan made the team based on his entire body of work – not his selection camp.

“We put in the time, we know the player,” said the general manager of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. “There’s no surprises with him. He showed enough, but we know there’s a lot more.

“The upside is huge.”

Hockey Canada executive Scott Salmond quipped people in Toronto were nervous after Cowan dressed as the 13th forward for the first camp exhibition game this week against a university all-star team.

“The term ‘200-foot player’ is probably a little overused,” Salmond said. “But he’s at his best when he’s playing that game. With this group, he doesn’t have to bring offence all the time.

“He needs to be on both sides of the puck and play hard.”

There’s little doubt what the reliable Minten will bring each shift, especially following his NHL stint.

“You pick up a lot,” said Minten, who lived with Leafs captain John Tavares. “Guys pushing to be Hall of Famers “¦ it’s not an accident that those guys are there, and there for so long. You pick up on their habits.

“They’re really focused (and) committed. Definitely contagious.”

Canada might not have its usual star power in Sweden, but Minten sees a lot of promise in this iteration as the group begins its climb towards a third consecutive gold medal.

“Every year Canada’s got a legit shot,” he said. “I don’t think this year’s any different. Maybe not every single guy on the team’s gonna be a first-round pick.

“But there’s still a ton of guys who play the game really well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 15, 2023.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

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