Where Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Play Easton Cowan Next Year?

After a phenomenal 2023-24 season, Easton Cowan has turned from once looking like an off the board late first-round draft pick to now being one of hockey's top prospects. With the reigning OHL MVP just recently turning 19, the Leafs have an interesting choice to make regarding where Cowan should play next season.
London Knights v Oshawa Generals
London Knights v Oshawa Generals / Chris Tanouye/GettyImages
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Toronto Maple Leafs top prospect Easton Cowan has had a season for the ages.

The Toronto Maple Leafs first-round pick last year was viewed as a reach by many fans at the time, but he has proven everyone wrong this year.

This season, Easton Cowan won the OHL MVP award, the OHL's Playoff MVP award, the OHL Championship with the London Knights, and was just one goal away from winning the CHL's most coveted trophy, the Memorial Cup.

With Cowan having another full year of OHL eligibility, the Toronto Maple Leafs have an interesting decision to make with their star prospect. Bring him to the NHL or let him play another year in junior?

What the Toronto Maple Leafs Should Do With Easton Cowan

I think Cowan deserves a chance to play in the NHL no doubt, however, there is no point rushing him into the league if he is not ready.

The Leafs don't need a top-6 forward right now, but if Cowan impresses during training camp, the Leafs should give him his nine games to prove himself, and at least let him learn the ropes of the NHL.

For those who aren't aware, the NHL allows players on entry-level deals aged 19 or younger (which Cowan is) to play a maximum of nine games in the NHL before their entry-level contract kicks in.

This is a strategy most teams use to save a year on their rookie's contract, but also a good way to give them NHL experience at the same time.

The issue with Cowan (and any other CHL prospects) is that they are ineligible to play in the AHL until they are 20 years old, or have played in at least four total CHL seasons, and Cowan has not done either of those.

The ideal spot for Cowan to play next season would be the AHL, but unfortunately he can't. The next best option we have is to let him play his nine NHL games and see how he does.

If he plays well, then that's great, it seems like he'll be a star one day, so why not keep him with the big boys if he's playing well. However, if not, another year of junior won't hinder him.

While he's done almost everything he can at the OHL level, he could have another run at MVP, an OHL title, or another kick at the Memorial Cup.

On top of this, if the Leafs let him go, expect Cowan to be one of Team Canada's leading scorers at the 2025 WJC.

Regardless, there is no bad spot for Cowan to play next year and the Leafs have no reason to rush him.

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Let's see what more amazing things he can pull off next year.