Knies, Minten and a new strategy project?

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News and Rumors, I’ll explore what I think has been a new way of writing for the team. This new strategy was made possible by the emergence of 2021 draft pick Matthew Knies.

When I look at what happened with the Maple Leafs in the 2022 NHL Draft, the team’s ability to trade is tied to Knies’ growth on the hockey scene. In part, due to different thinking than in previous draft years, Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was able to comfortably transfer goaltender Petr Mrazek and his salary burden to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Point One: Did Matthew Knies change the way the Maple Leafs draft?

Matthew Knies University of Minnesota
Matthew Knies, University of Minnesota (Image courtesy of University of Minnesota Athletics)

Over the past year, Knies has been turning eyes. He skated his first season with the NCAA University of Minnesota Golden Gophers; and, he will return there for this season. Knies, 19, scored 15 goals and added 18 assists (for 33 points) in 33 NCAA games last season. Along the way, he helped the Golden Gophers reach the semi-finals of the Frozen Four tournament.

But he had not finished impressing. Knies also played in the World Juniors for Team USA; and, more exciting for him, played with the US Olympic team at the Beijing Winter Games. Exhilarating enough for a 57th draft pick in the 2021 draft.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Prospect Knies Burst After Strong NCAA Start

It’s important because the Maple Leafs went from 25th to 38th to get rid of Petr Mrazek’s contract. The team then chose Fraser Minten. The word on Minten is that he just might be a Knies clone. Although not as tall as Minten, he is a power forward who plays a physical game.

Before Knies was chosen in 2021, the team always seemed to have chosen a collection of attackingly talented Smurfs. One wonders if what appears to be a home run with Knies might have helped the team think a little differently about the 2022 draft.

Second point: What do we know about Fraser Minten?

When the Maple Leafs drafted Minten 38th overall, they got what appears to be a talented but somewhat raw player who projects — right now — to (at best) become a bit of an Ilya Mikheyev-type player. While he may not be as fast a skater – right now – as Mikheyev, the Maple Leafs’ player development unit is world-class.

The organization may take a project-based approach to finding and developing untapped talent. (I’m marking “right now” because I believe the Maple Leafs believe their development program can mature skills with hard work. That means things can change.)

The Maple Leafs picked center Minten with the 38th pick because they thought differently than they had in the past. Let’s face it, general manager Kyle Dubas was going to trade if necessary to move Petr Mrazek. However, one of the reasons the trade worked is that the organization trusts its development system.

Related: Fraser Minten – 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Honestly, I didn’t know anything about Minten before the Maple Leafs drafted him. But I can read. Minten was a bit of a surprise last season. As the 74th overall pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Minten came from almost nowhere to become a key contributor to a talented Kamloops Blazers team that was just one game away from reaching the championship. the WHL.

During the 2021-22 season, he played a total of 84 games (regular season and playoffs), scoring 26 goals and adding 45 assists (for 71 points). Minten’s reputation is that he has an excellent hockey IQ and his on-ice savvy allows him to make smart plays in all three zones.

Fraser Minten Kamloops Blazers
Fraser Minten, Kamloops Blazers (Allen Douglas / Kamloops Blazers)

Minten plays a game from 200 feet, and his two-way skills have helped make him a strong special teams player (both power play and shorthanded). He’s reliable defensively and he’s good at forcing forwards into making costly mistakes.

Obviously, Minten isn’t quite ready for prime time. Areas he needs to improve include his faceoff skills and shooting, but (to me) those areas seem like the kind of things that can be improved with practice, practice, and more practice. Right now, he’s projecting himself as a potential NHL player in the middle of the six who could play a stopping role and kill penalties.

Related: Maple Leafs Should Interest Philippe Myers

Honestly, couldn’t the Maple Leafs use another David Kampf on their roster? Who knows, Minten’s advantage could improve with a few more WHL seasons under his belt. He will grow and learn.

What’s next for the Maple Leafs?

Maple Leafs fans still have about four days to wait to see what the team’s masterminds have planned for the starting goaltender. A week ago, I was like many others who thought Jack Campbell might be leaving town. My thoughts sent him home to Michigan. But the Detroit Red Wings went with Ville Husso.

I’m starting to think Campbell might surprise us all and re-sign with the Maple Leafs. I would like that.

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