After this off-season’s departures and acquisitions, Leafs fans were guaranteed to have new faces to get used to.
Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, even seasoned veteran Ryan Reaves were all hot topics across Ontario’s capital this summer.
Now, seven games into pre-season and five days from their home opener, one name making his way to the front of the crowd is 2022 second round draft pick Fraser Minten.
At just 19, Minten was the youngest player on the ice for Toronto in their 4-3 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe admitted earlier in preseason that, as good as they knew he was, the prospect was ‘not on their radar’ at the start of training camp.
Only a few weeks later, and the fourth year coach has nothing but praise for the Leafs prospect.
“He was good, just like he’s been,” Keefe said at the press conference after the Leafs win. “He competed, had good pace on the puck, did well on faceoffs … he did a good job.”
The Vancouver native spent last season in British Columbia with the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
The Blazers have been good to the Leafs in the past, pushing out former Leaf fan-favourite Darcy Tucker, as well as current Special Advisor to General Manager Brad Treliving, Shane Doan.
As for Minten, after putting up 67 points in 57 games last season, the young centre looks ready to add his name to that list of Blazers alumni.
In Thursday night’s win, William Nylander provided the overtime winner, his second goal of the night.
Despite the two-score night, the first thing the Swede found himself talking about in the post-game scrum was Minten.
“[He made] some really good plays out there,” Nylander said. “I think he’s had a great camp and competed hard the entire way.”
Following suit, all-star Auston Matthews found himself discussing the rookie post-game as well.
“He’s just really solid all-around and a very smart player,” Matthews said. “I think him and [Matthew Knies] feed off each other really well and it’s been really cool to see that chemistry grow.”
Matthews later added how impressed he’s been with the rookie’s effort and personality, saying he’s a ‘great kid with a great motor’.
With all of the spotlight on him, Minten doesn’t seem like one to shy away from it.
Asked Thursday night about how he felt about his performance, he appeared calm and as if this was nothing new.
“I thought it went well for myself,” Minten said before giving a classic hockey answer. “We had a good forecheck, spent a lot of time in their end, creating down low and getting pucks towards the net.”
The most NHL ready line-up he’s played with so far in his young career, the youngster was nonchalant about the increase in talent.
“I didn’t think it changed much … felt pretty similar.”
The Leafs come into this 2023/24 season with a definite new look, led by the new faces previously mentioned.
With the roster getting closer and closer to being finalized, don’t be surprised if you see the Leafs’ number 39 lacing up on Wednesday against the Canadiens.