With the 28th overall draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, the Maple Leafs have selected London Knights forward Easton Cowan.

The pick was announced on the stage in Nashville by the Leafs‘ Director of Amateur Scouting Wes Clark, who on Tuesday outlined the emphasis his draft team places on two player traits in particular: intelligence and competitiveness.

In both regards, the 5’11, 170-pound left-shot Cowan scores very highly. His persistent motor, tenacity as a puck retriever on the forecheck, and hockey sense are hallmarks of his game. As a rookie, he earned the trust of head coach Dale Hunter in critical late-game situations (whether up or down a goal), which is no small feat.

After spending most of his D-1 season developing in the GOJHL, the Ontario native’s production in his first full OHL season in 2022-23 consisted of 53 points in 68 regular-season games and then ticked up notably in the Knights’ playoff run to the OHL Finals — 21 points in 20 postseason games, including nine goals, led OHL rookie playoff scoring by double digits ahead of the second-highest scorer. His strong second half and impressive playoff run — arguably the Knights’ best forward in the OHL Finals series vs. Peterborough — nudged him into first-round consideration for several draft teams around the league.

Back in London next season, Cowan should play a major role — with a significant all-situations opportunity to build on his late-season production — on a Knights team with championship aspirations.

Easton Cowan’s pre-draft rankings:

  • Ranked #66 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
  • Ranked #89 by THE HOCKEY NEWS
  • Ranked #53 by TSN/BOB McKENZIE
  • Ranked #78 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
  • Ranked #34 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
  • Ranked #51 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
  • Ranked #55 by DOBBERPROSPECTS

Easton Cowan Scouting Report

courtesy of the 2023 Blackbook (BUY NOW)

Easton was selected in the second round of the 2021 OHL Priority Selection Draft from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs U16 program. He surprised some by not making the London Knights full-time in his rookie season, instead spending most of the year with the Komoka Kings of the GOJHL.

Easton put up respectable numbers with the Kings while appearing in seven games for the London Knights. This was clearly the right decision for Cowan as he had an outstanding rookie season as a 17-year-old, eventually working himself into a consistent role on the Knights’ top line and finishing third in OHL Rookie scoring.

Easton played a huge role in the London Knights OHL playoffs which included leading the OHL Rookie Playoff scoring by double digits ahead of the second-highest scorer. The impressive run has helped cap a great season and didn’t hurt his NHL draft stock.

Easton is such a tireless worker; the word elite being attached to his competitiveness would not be out of place. There are few players in all of junior hockey — let alone in this draft class — that can apply pressure and force opponents to make mistakes the way Easton is capable of. Part of what makes him so dangerous on the forecheck is that after he overwhelms his opponents, he is a dual threat offensively as evidenced by his 29 goals and 45 assists combined between the regular season and playoffs.

He can and will punish opponents on the scoreboard after creating turnovers. His defensive game has developed a lot during his time with the London Knights. His skating improved a lot this year and that helped him as he has already established himself as possibly the most valuable player on the Knights’ penalty kill. London has shown no reservations about putting Cowan on the ice in the final minute of any game whether up a goal or down a goal, including in the playoffs. To reiterate, Dale Hunter played a rookie in the most important minutes of the London Knights season.

There aren’t many knocks to Easton’s game. His size isn’t ideal, but he has grown this year. He supposedly has size 13 feet (we’ve heard both 12.5 and 13) and will have time to physically develop and get stronger. We would guess he’d top out at 6’0” at best, but it’s an educated guess.

He doesn’t project to be a high-end skilled offensive forward at the next level, but he isn’t without skill and he’ll fight to get the dirty areas to score. He is also an underrated playmaker. He will be able to play with high-end top-six NHL skilled players. While we expect him to put up huge numbers in juniors, it will be his competitiveness and smarts that make him an NHL player.

Cowan is someone who will be extremely valuable in the NHL, especially in the playoffs, due to his intangibles, smarts, and elite-level competitiveness. We project his skill to be a complementary part of his game, but it won’t hold him back.

Easton plays a style of game that is becoming increasingly rare. We feel he has just enough skill to go along with his excellent hockey IQ and elite compete level to allow him to be a winger up and down the top three lines.

It’s hard to guess where he could potentially be selected in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. We think there is a chance he could possibly sneak into the end of the first round, but more likely will be an early second-round pick. We’d be surprised if he slides any further than the middle of the second round.

Director of Amateur Scouting Wes Clark on Easton Cowan

Big engine. Big motor. Relentless. Really strong intelligence on and off the puck. He is early in his development curve. I think he has a really long way to go.

He started off the year with limited minutes. In the second half, there was progression every month and every game all the way through the playoffs. He really elevated.

There is a lot of room for improvement. We think we got a good one.

Some people may think that we may have reached, but part of the job, too, is collecting intel. We knew a number of teams behind us had him high on their board. He was our guy.

Easton Cowan on his game

I have a hounding mentality with hounding pucks and a 200-foot game. I use my skating ability and hockey sense all over the ice to create plays. I really want to work on getting bigger and work on my shot.

I kind of model my game after Nazem Kadri, and James van Riemsdyk in front of the net. He has that JVR play everyone knows. I was watching those two on the Leafs growing up.

Easton Cowan Video

Easton Cowan Statistics

Born: May 20, 2005
Position: C/W
Age: 18
Height: 5'11" / 178 cm
Place of Birth: Mount Brydges, ON, CAN
Weight: 170 lbs / 77 kg
Nation: Canada
Shoots: Left
S Team League GP G A TP PIM +/- POST GP G A TP PIM +/-
2019-20 Elgin Middlesex Chiefs U15 AAA ALLIANCE U15 32 6 22 28 14 - |
2020-21 Elgin Middlesex Chiefs U16 AAA ALLIANCE U16 0 0 0 0 0 - |
2021-22 Komoka Kings GOJHL 24 11 23 34 30 - |
London Knights OHL 7 1 1 2 2 0 | Playoffs 5 0 2 2 0 2
2022-23 London Knights OHL 68 20 33 53 47 10 | Playoffs 20 9 12 21 16 2
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