Maple Leafs’ Easton Cowan A World Junior Hopeful

When his name was called at the 2023 NHL Draft in the first round, the Toronto Maple Leafs had the hockey world looking for answers. How could this player — projected as a second to third-round pick — move up to being a first-round selection?

Still, the Maple Leafs took Easton Cowan with the 28th overall pick and the London Knights’ forward has made noise since he was returned to his OHL club. The 18-year-old has eight goals and 27 points in just 16 games since returning to the Knights and is on pace for a career year of 107 points.

Easton Cowan, London Knights (Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

Not only that, but Cowan’s strong camp and his start to the season has put him in the conversation for a potential spot on Team Canada at this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship tournament — an accomplishment that would be quite the compliment for the 2005-born forward.

Easton Cowan Could Play at World Juniors

Now, it’s not a guarantee by any means, but Cowan’s hot start to the season has the potential to land him a spot on Team Canada. His 27 points to kick of the season has him second on the Knights in scoring behind linemate Denver Barkey (28), but his 16 games played has him on top when it comes to points per game this season amongst the league’s top-11 scorers.

He’s on pace to double his offensive output from last year and hit the century mark for the first time in his OHL career.

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From a numbers perspective, it would make sense for Team Canada to have Cowan try-out for the team — even if he doesn’t make the cut. But with the World Juniors, it’s not always about numbers.

Experience, age and past international competition factor into whether or not these players make the cut and while Cowan’s numbers are strong, his comes in under others when it comes to age and experience.

Cowan’s Shortcomings for Canada’s Roster

Being an 18-year-old would make him one of the younger players on the team. Sure, Team Canada could invite Macklin Celebrini which would make Cowan have the upper hand in age, but there are still players who could return to Team Canada that would oust Cowan from the opportunity.

Guys like Adam Fantilli and Owen Beck come to mind when discussing potential returnees. Which brings up the question of experience.

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Having not taken part in the under-20 tournament before, returnees would likely have an upper hand in making the final roster. On top of that, Cowan’s international experience is lacking — having not taken part in the U17 or U18 tournaments either.

But if experience and age are the only two things holding Cowan back, it might be a difficult decision when it comes down to whether or not to bring Cowan along for the ride. After all, the kid has versatility, speed and sees the game on another level that he should force the team’s brass into a tough decision when it comes to the final cuts.

What Are the Chances Cowan Makes the Cut?

At this point it seems like a complete toss up. Some in hockey circles have him making the cut and playing a limited role as an 18-year-old, but there’s no guarantee that he makes the cut.

Still, if he can provide a similar camp to what he put forth at the Maple Leafs’ camp this season, there’s no reason to assume that he can’t slip in as a potential bottom-six forward for Team Canada.

Easton Cowan Toronto Maple Leafs
Easton Cowan, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s safe to say that at the moment his chances of making the team are a split 50-50. But it wouldn’t be insane to think that he’s got a 60 to 65 percent chance of making this team right now. 

It’s a fast-paced tournament that requires teams to have offensive players and Cowan fits into that role. While the Knights would hate to lose him at that point in the season, getting to see Cowan on a global stage in Gothenburg, Sweden would be quite the treat for Leafs Nation and those who still question the pick.

From first-round pick to World Junior hopeful, Cowan has made it into quite the season for himself with more potential opportunities coming — especially if he can make some noise at this oh-so-popular tournament.