A day after trading down, the Leafs have made their first selection in the 2022 NHL draft at 38th overall by selecting 6’1, 185-pound centerman Fraser Minten from the Kamloops Blazers.

Drafting in the NHL is always about selecting the best player available; these players are usually multiple years away from making the league, and that’s if you’re lucky.

That said, the Leafs genuinely lack centers in their system. Last year, they drafted three times, and none were centers. In the two drafts before that, they drafted two centers of note: Roni Hirvonen and Mikhail Abramaov. Abramov had a decent enough rookie year with the Marlies but nothing that leaps off the page. There are a few other young centers on the Marlies with potential in Alex Steeves (who I’d suggest projects better as a winger at the NHL level) and Curtis Douglas.

But you can never have enough good centers, and so many NHL players were once centers but eventually shifted to the wing to stick at the highest level. It’s a premium position — one that is always a need for every organization. The Leafs used their top pick in 2022 to add to that mix.

Minten possesses a lot of traits we see the Leafs routinely value. He has a track record of production — this was his second year in the WHL (first full one, though), already totaling 87 games and 73 points in the league. He is used in all situations in the WHL – the type of versatility the Leafs have generally valued in their process. Minten also had a really nice playoff this year, putting up 16 points in 17 games as the Blazers lost in Game 7 of the Conference Final, their longest run in the playoffs in 23 years (Minten actually opened the scoring in the game).

Interestingly enough, he’s their first WHL pick since 2018, when they drafted Riley Stotts in the third round and Filip Kral in the fifth round. In truth, they haven’t really had success drafting in the WHL — to this point, anyway — since drafting Morgan Rielly fifth overall in 2012.

Garth Malarchuk has been with the Leafs for over a decade now and is located in British Colombia. His priorities include the WHL and Western Canadian Jr. A teams, something he told me in an MLHS interview that you can read from nine years ago.

It’s expected that Fraser Minten will return to the WHL next year, although there are good centers ahead of him that could also be back in the WHL, so he might not officially be the 1C next season. That said, Kamloops is hosting the Memorial Cup next year, so unless he’s moved, he is going to be on a team gunning for a championship and one of the hardest trophies to win in hockey next season.

Fraser Minten pre-draft rankings:

  • Ranked #64 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
  • Ranked #47 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
  • Ranked #101 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
  • Ranked #85 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
  • Ranked #28 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
  • Ranked #68 by RECRUIT SCOUTING
  • Ranked #94 by DOBBERPROSPECTS

Fraser Minten Scouting Report

courtesy of the 2022 Blackbook (BUY NOW)

A safe, two-way center, Fraser Minten is a competitive player, but he balances it with good hockey sense. He really manages ice well for a player of his ilk. He’s certainly a physical presence, especially on the forecheck. His forechecking is a strength – he anticipates defensive zone passes well and employs good stick positioning while applying pressure.

The mature thing about his game is his restraint and timing. Anyone can go in as F1 and destroy a player three seconds after he’s moved the puck, but that’s not a recommended strategy for most. It requires some thought to know when the physical play is the right one, when the stick play is the right one, or when to sink underneath to rotate the forecheckers is the right one – Minten shows this kind of upside. He can play calmly or chaotically at his discretion.

His skating isn’t amazing right now, but he shows some surprisingly good bursts from time to time. The overall skating package is going to grade up higher for us now because it seems so obviously projectable. He actually has greater length to his stride than meets the eye; it’s just that the power isn’t fully fleshed out yet. He also seems to get knocked off balance when taking incidental contact mid-stride. Minten has a big frame and — like any other 17-year-old — has room to fill out; that physical development arc ought to progress his skating sufficiently enough for it to be a real nice plus for him at the top end.

What doesn’t seem to be in the cards is even a moderate offensive upside. For a 6’1”, 185-pound player, it seems that nothing jumps off of his blade. His shot is on the weak side and the whole motion of it is notably slow. There isn’t much creativity or enhanced vision in terms of his passing ability. Most of his points are generated from being around the net. He benefited plenty from Logan Stankoven when he was fortunate enough to play with him. It’s hard to see anything about his puck play translating to a higher level other than that he goes to the net and has good timing for low-high plays to the slot where he is the recipient.

Maybe most frustrating of all is his overall lack of puck poise. For a player that has been a reasonably productive WHL player, he sure doesn’t touch the puck that much during a game. When he has it, it’s not for long. He’ll sometimes make some simple passes or adopt a shoot from anywhere perspective, which is okay, but other times, it’s a whirling inaccurate pass or a hope play. His stickhandling in space lacks deception and beating players at this level remains a challenge.

GM Kyle Dubas on Fraser Minten

He is a very intelligent young man. There are a lot of intriguing things about Fraser. Number one would be that he has played a pivotal role at a young age on a very good team in the Western league. They are hosting the Memorial Cup next year. That is great, and he plays all situations for them.

The other part of it is that he hasn’t played at a high level of hockey for that long. He doesn’t come from a family that is deeply entrenched in hockey or has a huge hockey background. He has sort of carved his own path that way in Vancouver and then onto Kamloops.

We think there is a lot of upside there — mostly because of that, but also because of how eager he is to work and learn, and most importantly, the way he performed this season for Kamloops. We are very excited to have him come in.

Fraser Minten Video

Fraser Minten Statistics

2017-18 West Van Academy U15 VarsityCSSHLV U15269293820-|Playoffs4145
2018-19 West Van Academy Bantam PrepCSSHL U152915506528-|Playoffs4314
 West Van Academy Elite 15sCSSHL U1664150-|
2019-20 West Van Academy PrepCSSHL U183420416122-|Playoffs1123
 Prince George Spruce KingsBCHL20000-|
2020-21 Kamloops BlazersWHL2041418124|
2021-22 Kamloops BlazersWHL672035555723|Playoffs1761016