In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share the insights of 17-year-old Connor Bedard about his friend and former high school linemate Fraser Minten, whom the Maple Leafs drafted in the second round of the past NHL Entry Draft.
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Second, I’ll look at Matthew Knies’ World Junior Tournament. Although it wasn’t the tournament I believe he’d hoped for, perhaps it helps Maple Leafs’ fans define what his role might be when he joins the team after his NCAA season is done at the University of Minnesota.
Finally, I’ll share the insights of a THW reader to reflect on how the NHL has changed over the past few seasons and how that might impact those players in their mid-to-late 30s.
Item One: Connor Bedard Heaps Praise on Fraser Minten
Connor Bedard, who seems to be everyone’s favorite to be the number one pick in next year’s 2023 NHL Entry Draft, had some good news for Maple Leafs’ fans. The Canadian junior hockey star, who (shades of Nick Robertson with the Peterborough Petes) scored 100 points (with 51 goals and 49 assists) in 62 games with the Regina Pats last season, shared his opinion that the Maple Leafs got the steal of this year’s draft when they picked up Fraser Minten.
Related: Connor Bedard: A Generational Talent
You might forgive Bedard for being biased. The two friends played two seasons together at West Vancouver Academy before each went to a different Western Hockey League team. In an interview reported by the Toronto Star a couple of days ago, the 17-year-old Bedard remembered that, before their bantam season, Minten wasn’t “projected to get drafted into the WHL.”
Then Bedard noted that Minten “put up, like, 70 points or something like that, so I knew he was going to be the steal of the draft. To see him going as high as he did to Toronto, one of the biggest franchises — he was pumped. It was really cool for me to see that.” (from “Connor Bedard is Leafs prospect Fraser Minten’s No. 1 fan,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 20/08/2022).
Actually Bedard was a bit off on his numbers. Minten scored 55 points (20 goals and 35 assists) in 67 games. As interesting is that Minten had 57 penalty minutes for the Kamloops Blazers last season. That seems to make sense.
David Alter of Sports Illustrated covered the Maple Leafs’ development camp and noted that Minten was already built like an NHL player. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound forward showed a physical presence as well as intellectual acumen. He was reported to be a sponge. He “improved with each passing day” during the development camp. By the way, he’s apparently an accomplished pianist.
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Perhaps the organization had good reason to trade down to move Petr Mrazek’s contract knowing it could pick up Minten in the second round (38th overall).
Item Two: Matthew Knies Didn’t Need a Good World Juniors: He’s Ready
Matthew Knies did not have the kind of World Junior Tournament he probably wanted to have. However, he didn’t need to. Most Maple Leafs’ fans (including me) seem to want their prospects to be high-octane offensive players. But that might not be Knies.
Knies played crash-and-bang on Team USA’s first line, clearing space and working to protect his linemates. He then often set up shop in front of the opposition’s goalie. That showing might have been the best thing that could have happened for him.
Thinking about the Maple Leafs’ team needs, they might need a hard-working powerhouse physical presence on a line to complement the team’s scorers. To me, what I saw of his play suggests that he’s ready for the role that he probably will (and should – at least for the first little while) play with the Maple Leafs.
All in all, not a bad thing looking at the team’s future.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Since Nazem Kadri’s signing with the Calgary Flames, there’s been a lot of conversation about the shelf life of Kadri’s seven-year contract. The consensus, and I agree, is that the contract might be valuable for the next couple of seasons but won’t age particularly well.
That conversation has generated a number of comments and comparisons about how long contracts should be signed for. Central to that discussion is the age at which NHL players’ skills begin to decline. Regular THW reader and commenter Old School shared an interesting take on that question at the end of yesterday’s post. Old School noted that the Maple Leafs were “a victim of their own success.”
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Knies, Kruse, Dubas & Kadri
He added that “the quick turnaround of the 2016-17 team was based on youth and speed. The rest of the league followed suit. Making it a younger, faster league.” The result, he suggested, was that slower skaters in their 30s became redundant.
The conversation was about the production of Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares. How will his season unfold? As I’ve noted before, he’s one of the players I’m rooting for to have a point-a-game season. He’s been a solid contributor throughout his career.