Easton Cowan plays key role as London Knights sweep Flint Firebirds

Mike Armenti
April 5, 2024  (9:27)

London Knights forward and Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan flashes a look at the camera during warmups
Photo credit: Natalie Shaver, OHL Images

London Knights standout and top Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan played a key role for his team in the 1st round of the OHL Playoffs, helping the Knights sweep the Flint Firebirds with a 4-0 series win last night.

After a sensational 2023-24 season with the London Knights, Easton Cowan has picked up right where he left off after having scored 96 points in 54 games. Last night, the London Knights eliminated the Flint Firebirds from the OHL Playoffs, completing the 4-game sweep with a 3-2 win, thanks in part to a brilliant first period play by Cowan to help the Knights open the scoring.
After Knights teammate Isaiah George flipped the puck down the ice near the midway point of the 1st period, Cowan had found himself in a foot race for the puck, edging out the Firebirds defender and completing a blind pass out front for teammate Landon Sim, who made no mistake, putting the puck past the Flint goaltender to take a 1-0 lead.
Cowan's dominance in the series was on full display, as the 18-year-old Leafs prospect amassed 2 goals, 5 points and 13 shots on goal in 4 games in the first round matchup against Flint.
Last year, Cowan had racked up 21 points across 20 playoff games, and with the London Knights being a powerhouse again this season, the hope is that Cowan can build on a very successful postseason last year and a red hot run during the 2023-24 regular season, which saw him produce an incredible 36-game point streak, passing the likes of Connor Bedard (35) and sitting behind only Sidney Crosby (37) and Alexander Radulov (50) for the longest point streak in CHL history.
With their 4-0 series win over the Firebirds, Cowan and the top seed Knights now have some valuable rest time between series, as they await the winners of the 4th seed Kitchener Rangers vs the 5th seed Erie Otters series.
The Leafs' decision to hold onto Cowan ahead of the NHL's March 8th trade deadline was a wise decision in the minds of many from around Leafs Nation. Yes, there were some, such as Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos, who believed that trading Cowan to land a player like Arizona's Lawson Crouse to help the Leafs win now would have been the right call, but Leafs GM Brad Treliving never even entertained the thought of moving the 18-year-old, and had stated publicly on a number of occasions that he and fellow top prospect Fraser Minten were among the team's untouchable assets.
One of the main reasons why keeping Cowan in the fold in Toronto was such a good idea is because, with the current roster structure, the team is going to need cheap, young players who can come in on their entry-level deals and make an impact at the NHL level. With the salary cap continuing to rise, the Leafs' salary situation will improve, but with the Auston Matthews and William Nylander contracts kicking in next season and eating up a lot of the cap increase that we're expected to see, having a player like Cowan (and Minten for that matter) available to play some key minutes in the Leafs' middle six, it could help the Leafs in their pursuit to re-sign other key players like Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi.
I may be putting the cart before the horse here, because Cowan is not a guarantee to play in the NHL next season, but with how well he performed during training camp last fall, it is a reasonable expectation that, with another year of development under his belt, he'll be even more prepared to make the jump next season. Whether Keefe, Treliving and company will see it that way remains to be seen. The Leafs will want to avoid rushing him to the NHL if they don't feel like he's ready to turn pro, but with what we're seeing from him this season, you could certainly make the argument that he's too good to play at the junior level and that the best thing for his development might be to make the jump.
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Easton Cowan plays key role as London Knights sweep Flint Firebirds

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