The Toronto Maple Leafs are extremely happy with last year's draft pick.
No one, not even the Toronto Maple Leafs themselves, could have seen Easton Cowan coming, at least as someone taken in the first round and later named to Team Canada at the World Juniors, perhaps not even his London Knights or Cowan himself.
After a decent year in the GOJHL with Komoka, Cowan, a second round pick of London in the 2021 OHL Priority Draft, was promoted to the OHL, with 2 Points in 7 Games in his DY-1 season.
A stunning draft season catapulted Cowan to being viewed as a legitimate prospect, but it wasn't until the Toronto Maple Leafs made the shock decision to take Cowan 28th Overall in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft that his name finally stuck.
The selection of Cowan divided fans at the time, worried the Leafs were treading back in the direction of taking swings on undersized forwards unknown to fans, and in one of the deepest drafts in history. It didn't take long for the Leafs scouting department to be forgiven, and rightfully so.
Truthfully, I didn't pay much attention to Cowan outside of his point totals, just assuming he was the product of a deep London Knights team. I was far more focused on his teammate Denver Barkey, now a prospect of the Philadelphia Flyers.
It wasn't until I watched Cowan at the end of the OHL season I saw how well-rounded and hard-working his game really was, topping that with a dominant OHL Cup run with 21 Points in 20 Games for London. This season, Cowan has continued his upward trajectory, named to Team Canada for the World Juniors, and now currently leading the OHL in PPG (1.82) at the time of writing, scoring 21 Goals and 62 Points in just 34 Games.
Here I will try to find players who, like Cowan, aren't highly talked about, but could take similar big swings and become meaningful top NHL prospects in the near future, and later, key NHL players.
I would include Luke Misa, who's taken big steps on a dominant Mississauga team this season, butt he's been given a big boost in the rankings already, ranked 16th by Dobber Prospects and 27th by EliteProspects (where all stats from this article come from), on top of being the older brother of Michael Misa, a projected top 3 pick next year.
It seems already known Misa's a prospect to keep an eye on. The same goes to Michael Hage. The Mississauga-born Center missed the majority of last season for Chicago due to injury, but has re-emerged in draft discussions, ranked 32nd by Craig Button and 36th by Bob McKenzie.