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Why Easton Cowan Is Perfect for Berube’s Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan has fire in his belly. Why does that make him a perfect fit for Craig Berube team?

Given new head coach Craig Berube‘s proclivity for tough-minded players, Easton Cowan should be a key figure for his team. Cowan is a bulldog. He plays with an in-your-face style and has high-end offensive talent. He could be ideally suited for the Maple Leafs’ third line as soon as next season.

Cowan has showcased his entire toolbox in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season, leading his London Knights toward a Memorial Cup championship.

Related: Maple Leafs to Bring Max Domi Home for Good?: Contract Talks Begin

Small But Powerful, Cowan Could Emerge as a Force

Cowan embodies the perfect workhorse for a Berube-coached team. The new bench boss demands relentless effort, whether it’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or the second half of a back-to-back mid-season game. From what we’ve seen from Cowan thus far, his game should translate well to the NHL level. That fact can’t be lost on Maple Leafs General Manager (GM) Brad Treliving, who would be wise to protect this surprise ace up his sleeve.

Cowan is enjoying a banner season for the OHL’s London Knights. Ironically, it’s the same junior team Mitch Marner starred for before joining the Maple Leafs full-time in 2016. Also, like Marner, Cowan has produced nearly a two-points-per-game pace for the Knights this year. Both skaters won the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding player and the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the OHL’s playoff MVP.

What Cowan lacks in physical stature, he more than makes up for in drive, creativity, and finish. If there’s any truth to the noise that Marner’s time with the Maple Leafs might come to a close, the organization might look at Cowan as a replacement for Marner. The two players are eerily similar in many respects – except for two facts. First, Cowan seems to have more fire in his belly. Second, he would play at a far cheaper salary than Marner’s $10.903-million cap hit next season.

There’s a Chance Cowan Could Make the 2024-25 Maple Leafs Roster

Cowan’s entry-level contract carries a cap hit of $904,667 for the next three seasons. When that expires, he will become an RFA. If he returns to the OHL next season, that contract would slide. However, if Cowan made the team, the salary-cap space he would create would be crucial to Toronto’s intent to reconstruct their blue line. While nobody would expect Cowan to be an NHL all-star right off the bat, how fun would it be to see him play alongside top players like Auston Matthews, William Nylander, or even Marner himself?

There’s a chance fans might see Cowan’s potential as early as next season. If he pans out, he might also join a list of Maple Leafs untouchables. That list includes Matthews, Nylander, young winger Matthew Knies, goalie Joseph Woll, and Cowan. Cowan makes all sorts of sense as a cost-effective driver of play and should get a chance to get a long look at the NHL level next year. Yes, he must adapt to the increased physicality of the NHL level. However, given what we’ve seen of Cowan thus far, who will bet against that possibility?

The bottom line is that the Maple Leafs did very well drafting Cowan with the 28th overall pick in the 2023 draft. He’s perfect for a Berube-coached team. Will he get a chance to show it next season?

Related: Why Casey DeSmith Would Be a Great Pickup for the Maple Leafs

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