The Maple Leafs selected 6’1 centerman Fraser Minten out of the WHL with their first pick of the 2022 draft at 38th overall.

Admittedly, I wasn’t overly familiar with the player going into the draft. He wasn’t highly rated by many online scouting publications, but I’ve spent some time since the pick was made reviewing the statistics and the tape. Below, I will share my personal opinion on the current state of the center prospect’s game and where the Leafs will likely try to take it over the next few years.

Areas of Strength

Minten, fourth in the WHL in takeaways/60 this season as a draft-eligible, uses his big frame and his long range along with his anticipation to pick off the opponent’s passes. He’s not one to shy away from the physical battles, he enjoys laying sizeable hits while in pursuit of the puck, he’ll lay out to block shots when he needs to, and he can be a bit of an agitator between the whistles.

Despite those traits, Minten isn’t just a “meat and potatoes” type of player. He’s also a crafty puck carrier who always aims to retain possession of the puck in transition. Many players of Minten’s skillset play a dump-and-chase heavy game, but the Toronto second-rounder has the tendency to bump pucks back to his defensemen and/or execute heady change-of-side passes when he can’t skate it in himself.

He finished second among Kamloops skaters in controlled entries/60 this season and also had the second-fewest dump-ins/60 on his team, with only Dallas Stars second-rounder Logan Stankoven besting him in each category.

Minten’s possession-focused mindset in combination with some nifty hands in tight spaces and accurate passing helps the forward maneuver through the neutral zone with control. When his teammates have the puck in transition, Minten will change speeds to avoid defenders and remain a passing option.

You’ll often see him run nifty little give-and-gos:

Minten can get pucks back and turn those pucks into offensive zone possessions. That is a real solid base to build off of — and a base that the Leafs have taken a swing on multiple times in the draft under Kyle Dubas. It’s easy to view his floor as a physical, responsible depth center because of the aforementioned traits, assuming he can get a step quicker and a bit stronger.

Current Weaknesses/Developmental Focuses

The biggest question mark for me is Minten’s offensive game. His primary assist rate at even strength was really good this season — slightly behind the aforementioned Stankoven once more — but the tape doesn’t show a player that consistently wows you with deceptive, creative playmaking in the offensive zone. He’s got good vision, accurate passing, and can find open teammates across the rink occasionally, but you don’t see it as often as you’d like to. The bulk of his primary assists came from rush plays and rebounds.

Minten enjoys playing a shoot-and-retrieve style of hockey, firing pucks from essentially anywhere towards the net in hopes of generating a tip or a rebound. His most common shooting location at 5v5 was outside of the dots on the left side of the ice. He doesn’t tend to hang onto pucks for more than a couple of seconds at a time, preferring to funnel pucks towards the goal. This is fine for a player that wants to make the NHL in a depth role, but it’s probably not conducive to creating dangerous chances inside an NHL top six one day.

With that being said, I think Toronto probably views his tactical approach to offense as an area that they can really build on. You definitely see flashes of great vision and creativity from Minten, but you also see him throw pucks to the net from unthreatening areas too often. He could stand to make more of some of the puck touches he gets along the left wall in the offensive zone. If he held onto pucks for a little longer, it would allow him to better utilize his vision and passing skill. There may be more upside here than originally meets the eye.

For now, I see Minten as a player who brings physicality, competitiveness, responsibility, and heady transition play but limited offense when projecting him to the next level. A team with sub-par player development/attention to detail would likely just tell Minten to work on his skating, strength, and faceoffs while pegging him as their future fourth-line center. However, that isn’t really how the Leafs have operated under Kyle Dubas.

I’m intrigued by what Toronto’s development staff could do with his offensive game. There is development potential on the offensive side of the puck, and by all accounts, he seems to be a really smart kid with a thirst for knowledge. I’d expect that their staff will encourage him to hang onto the puck a little more, allowing him to make the most of his playmaking ability. Minten would be far from the first Leafs pick under the Dubas regime to show intriguing development potential at the draft followed by an explosive D+1 year after some good work with the team’s development staff.

I’ll have my eye on the Kamloops centerman next season. Let’s see what Toronto can do with him over the next 12 months or so.