2023 NHL Draft: What Maple Leafs got in picks Easton Cowan, Hudson Malinoski, Noah Chadwick

Brad Treliving went off the board for his first draft pick as Maple Leafs GM, taking Easton Cowan 28th overall.

During the opening round of the 2023 NHL Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs went completely against consensus and selected London Knights winger Easton Cowan with the 28th overall pick.

Cowan was widely considered to be available in the third round but as currently presented, the Maple Leafs only hold first, fifth and sixth-round picks. He was ranked as the 51st-best skater by NHL Central Scouting. Nick Richard of The Leafs Nation compiled final draft rankings from eight sources, where Cowan was ranked anywhere from 34-89th overall.

As part of his conditions for accepting the Toronto job, general manager Brad Treliving wasn’t allowed on the floor until the Flames — his former employer — made their first-round selection, and he promptly returned when Samuel Honzek was taken by Calgary with the 16th pick. Maple Leafs head scout Wes Clark was in charge of the draft as Treliving was barred from any of the team’s draft preparations.

Treliving was on the phone since the 24th overall pick was on the clock, belonging to the Nashville Predators, ostensibly trying to move further back into the draft where Cowan would be readily available.

What we know about Easton Cowan

Player profile

Drafted: 1st round (28th overall)

Date of birth: May 20, 2005

Position: C/RW, London Knights

Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 170 lbs

Regular season: 20 G, 53 P, 68 GP

Playoffs: 9 G, 21 P, 20 GP

Cowan posted 20 goals and 53 points in 68 regular-season games with the Knights before his production ascended in the playoffs, where he recorded nine goals and 21 points. It was his first full season in the OHL and he was named to the league's second all-rookie team.

Nicknamed "Cowboy" by London coach Dale Hunter, Cowan can play either centre or right wing, but he’s listed as a winger and that’s where he’s most likely to play as a professional. He was deployed in all situations for the Knights and because he’s relentless when tracking back in puck pursuit, it’s possible Cowan could develop into a NHL-caliber penalty killer.

“I think my hounding mentality, really hounding pucks. My 200-foot game. And using my skating ability and hockey sense. I want to work on getting bigger, work on my shot, and you can always get better at everything there,” Cowan told reporters when asked about his strengths and weaknesses.

The undersized winger just turned 18 on May 20 and was raised in Mount Brydges, Ont., where he toiled day and night on his parents' farm during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was selected 25th overall by the London Knights in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection. Cowan recorded six goals and 28 points in 32 games for the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs U16 AAA program, an organization that has produced several NHL players over the past two decades including Bo Horvat, Travis Konecny, Boone Jenner and Lawson Crouse. Cowan may have been selected earlier but he was reportedly considering the NCAA as a potential option before signing with the Knights.

Toronto selected Mitch Marner from London eight years ago and the Selke finalist made sure to call Cowan immediately. Cowan also told reporters he models his game after fellow Knights alumnus Nazem Kadri.

“He was just really happy. He’s like, ‘Can't wait to meet you. Happy you’re part of the Buds.’ And obviously talking about London there, so it was awesome. I was kind of in shock, really,” Cowan said of his FaceTime call with Marner.

Cowan has been routinely lauded for his above-average skating ability and his tenacity. Toronto envisions Cowan as a player with high-end offensive ability with the ability to track down pucks and generate high-danger scoring chances from tight areas.

“His motor and his engine on the ice, he is relentless and never stops working," Knights associate GM Rob Simpson told The Athletic. "And he’s the type of player that if you want him to play higher in your lineup with skilled guys and bring competitiveness and forechecking and skill, he can do that. If you want him to play a defensive game and play the penalty kill, he can do those things.”

Cowan is expected to report to the Maple Leafs’ development camp, which begins July 3, before being returned to the Knights, where he’s expected to take a major leap offensively. He will need to add weight and strength, which is common among 18-year-old prospects, as he currently measures 5-foot-10, 170 pounds.

The 2023 NHL Draft class is widely considered the most talented cohort in recent memory because of the instant superstar potential at the top of the draft, with plenty of talented players sprinkled through the first round. Toronto was presented with an opportunity to take a high-impact player who could join Matthew Knies as the pillars of its next generation.

Although consensus deemed that Cowan would’ve almost certainly been available later in the draft, the Maple Leafs didn’t have the draft capital to wait and they got their man in Cowan.

What we know about Hudson Malinoski

Player profile:

Drafted: 5th round (153rd overall)

Date of birth: May 19, 2004

Position: C, Brooks Bandits (Alberta Junior Hockey League)

Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 174 lbs

Regular season: 16 G, 69 P, 44 GP

Playoffs: 3 G, 7 P, 15 GP

Malinoski proved to be an excellent playmaker in his lone season for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and he will play in the NCAA next season for Providence College. He led the Bandits to a Centennial Cup victory, the National Junior A Championship for teams under the Hockey Canada and Canadian Junior Hockey League umbrellas.

He was eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft but was unselected and he’s facing an uphill battle to eventually graduate to the professional ranks. Malinoski was ranked as the 65th-best North American skater via NHL Central Scouting

In several respects, Malinoski is lucky to be here. Malinoski was clearing snow off his family’s roof in November 2017 to make room for a snowboard jump, but he fell from a 10-to-12 foot perch and was taken to the hospital, initially diagnosed with a concussion. He was eventually diagnosed with a torn vertebral artery, casting doubt on his ability to play hockey again.

“I think I’m just grateful I’m playing hockey,” Malinoski told Darren Zary of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in May 2022. “Back in 2017, I would have never thought I’d be where I am now. So I’m pretty grateful for that.”

"He missed an entire year of hockey in 2020-21 (due to COVID-19) and played last year in a league that is not usually covered by NHL scouts, so he's almost like a first-year eligible player," John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said via’s Mike Morreale. "He has good size, is a good skater and has played a top-line role on arguably the top team in the AJHL as a first-year player. He can play both special teams and looks like the type of player who can contribute in a lot of different ways."

Malinoski may have the profile of a late bloomer and it’ll be compelling to monitor how he fares against NCAA competition next season to get a better understanding of how he may develop as a professional prospect.

What we know about Noah Chadwick

Player profile:

Drafted: 6th round (185th overall)

Date of birth: May 10, 2005

Position: RD, Lethbridge Hurricanes

Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 187 lbs

Regular season: 5 G, 20 P, 67 GP

Playoffs: 1 P, 4 GP

Chadwick was ranked as the 154th-best North American skater via NHL Central Scouting. He’s widely considered to be an intelligent defenceman who can facilitate clean zone exits but lacks professional-caliber skating, which will be detrimental to reaching his full potential.

During his final season in the Saskatchewan Male U18 AAA Hockey League as a member of the Saskatoon Contacts, Chadwick recorded 18 goals and 45 points in 42 games. There’s reason to believe that Chadwick is capable of producing secondary offence at the professional level beyond his counting stats.

Chadwick will likely return to Lethbridge for another season in the WHL where he’ll look to improve upon his skating and playmaking abilities at the point of attack.

It’s too early to determine whether Chadwick could make a real dent at the professional level but he has ample time to work on his game and a towering defenceman with strong hockey IQ seems like a good, low-risk bet for the Maple Leafs in the sixth round.