While the Toronto Maple Leafs do not have the deepest prospect pool, one player fans should be excited about is Kamloops Blazers center Fraser Minten. The 2022 second-round pick just finished his third season in the Western Hockey League (WHL), finishing with a career-high 31 goals and 67 points in 57 games. He also played in every game for Kamloops at the Memorial Cup, recording one goal and a faceoff win percentage of 53.1 percent. A player that keeps improving year after year, he has developed into one of the top prospects in the Leafs’ system.
One Of The Maple Leafs’ Top Prospects
With the 38th pick in the 2022 Draft, the Leafs made Minten the first Blazer ever selected by the organization. Profiled as a two-way center with a great shot, he was Toronto’s first pick during the draft as their original first-round pick was moved to the Chicago Blackhawks. While being drafted to a hockey-crazy market like the Maple Leafs may intimidate some, he was excited and ready to embrace the opportunity.
“That was also something that was very fortunate to have the opportunity to be drafted by them,” said Minten. “With the legacy, market fans and the passion that surrounds the organization, it was something I was very grateful for.”
While he has only been a Leaf for a year, he has already impressed assistant general manager Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser. One of the greatest women’s hockey players of all time, she was very complimentary of Minten’s development this year when asked about him at the Memorial Cup and believes he can be an NHL player in the future. When the Blazers forward heard what she said, he felt honoured.
“That is amazing. Hayley is an awesome person, very helpful and very supportive, so that was very kind of her.”
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While Minten is still a few years away from making the NHL, he is developing at a good pace and is showing why the Leafs took him early in the second round. He showed well at their development camp and has already signed his entry-level contract. With momentum on his side after a solid 2022-23 season, Maple Leafs fans should expect an even better year heading into the 2023-24 campaign.
Being A Blazer
One thing that Minten understands is how special it is to represent the Blazers organization. When players put on the jersey, they aren’t just representing the team; they are representing the city and their historic hockey past. With players like Scott Niedermayer, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Mark Recchi part of the team’s alumni, there is pressure to perform and live up to the legacy they left behind.
“It is something you think of once in a while. The legacy of the Memorial Cups and all the great alumni. They are all part of the organization still with ownership stakes, so it is an honour and something I am grateful for every day.”
Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Minten was given the opportunity to wear an “A” this season. He also was the co-recipient of the Dean Evason Award for inspirational leadership and ability alongside captain Logan Stankoven. Whether it is on or off the ice, he tries to lead by example and very well could be the next captain of the historic organization.
“We have lots of guys who could have it. We share it around, but every time I get the chance to wear it is something I am very thankful for and something I do not take lightly. I try to lead with my best in games and around the rink.”
Although the Blazers were eliminated during the WHL’s Western Conference Final, they were hosting the Memorial Cup and earned an automatic berth in the historic tournament. The last time Kamloops hosted the tournament was in 1995, when Doan, Iginla, Darcy Tucker and Nolan Baumgartner helped the Blazers win their third championship in three seasons. While the pressure was high heading into the tournament, Minten and his teammates were ready and excited for the opportunity.
“It is very lucky. Something that happens once in a lifetime for our group.”
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While the Blazers were the first team eliminated from the tournament, Minten played well and even scored a goal during their round-robin win against the Peterborough Petes. He may not have piled up the points, but the other elements, such as his puck control and defensive play, were noticeable throughout the four games. It is fair to say he was one of the better players for Kamloops during the tournament, which shows that he can stay calm and collected under pressure.
Minten’s Leadership and Development A Positive Sign
Minten isn’t the type of prospect that will end up on highlight reels constantly, but he continues to show just how valuable he is game after game. He is willing to play a matchup role and contribute in any way he can to the overall team’s success. A projected bottom-six forward at the NHL level, he continues to show that the Leafs made the right choice when they selected him in the second round.