A recent post by Toronto Maple Leafs (LeafsNation) writer Nick Richard reminded me of how surprisingly good a training camp and preseason prospect Fraser Minten actually had with the team. In short, Minten emerged as the feel-good story of the Maple Leafs’ training camp. In that, he exceeded expectations and earned a spot on the opening night roster.
That doesn’t happen all that often with this team. Given the level of skill and talent the Maple Leafs have, it makes you realize just how good Minten was (and still is). Although he only played in the first four games of the team’s regular season before being sent back to his Kamloops Blazers junior club, Minten left an impression.
He’s going to be a good player for the Maple Leafs for a long time. It just isn’t now.
How Did Minten Do in His Four Maple Leafs Games?
In his four NHL games, Minten showcased promise with a 56.9 xGF% (50 percent is average) despite not registering a point. However, the Maple Leafs eventually made the decision to return him to the Blazers. This move wasn’t a knock on Minten’s abilities; rather, it was recognition that the NHL pace was too fast for him at this stage. It takes a while to catch up to the speed.
When the team elevated David Kämpf to play third-line center, Minten was out of a role on the team. It was better to move him to British Columbia than have him sit and watch. He needs to play.
Placing a 19-year-old junior-eligible player on the team’s fourth line with enforcer Ryan Reaves just didn’t seem like the best developmental path for Minten. In fact, Pontus Holmberg has joined the big club and has played well.
Injuries Were Also a Part of the Minten Decision
The decision to return Minten to junior wasn’t a tough one. That was especially true when the Maple Leafs faced injuries on their blue line. After Jake McCabe got hurt and then Timothy Liljegren followed as well, the best course of action was to keep Holmberg on the roster and move Minten. The choice was easy enough.
I can’t even imagine that Minten will see the move to Kamloops as a demotion. He’s probably even now answering tons of questions from his Blazers’ teammates about how things are in the NHL. In that, Minten has lived every junior player’s dream. I’m sure he will take pride in his NHL experience while being hungry for more.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that Minten exceeded all expectations to earn a spot at the NHL level. He’s had a chance to show his potential. Now, he returns to Kamloops, likely to become the team captain and a focal point for the first time in his junior career.
That the Blazers are struggling in the standings (currently they are sitting last in the Western Conference with a 3-10-2 record), should only fuel Minten’s fire. He can use this opportunity to develop further and perhaps lead his team to a better record.
Minten’s brief time competing against NHL players has given him valuable experience and also likely newfound confidence. He will carry it back to the WHL. He’s a feel-good story for the Maple Leafs. And, further, his story is far from over.
Look for Fraser Minten to one day be a solid NHLer with the Blue & White.