Fraser Minten refuses to rest on brief Maple Leafs experience last season

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Fraser Minten isn’t assuming anything.

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Those four games that Minten played in for the Maple Leafs coming out of the pre-season last October?

They’re so last year.

Minten, who turned 20 on Friday, isn’t going to spend the rest of the summer pencilling himself into various versions of the Leafs lineup for the season opener on Oct. 9 in Montreal.

“It’s just a brief 20 days,” Minten said on Saturday, referring to his time with the Leafs to start 2023-24 before he was sent back to the Western Hockey League. “I think it means nothing, honestly, with trying to crack the team again.

“Having some games at a younger age gives you a little bit more confidence and belief in yourself, but I don’t think it gives you anything, (other than) just a few games’ look the year before.”

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In taking part in his third Leafs development camp, which concludes with a scrimmage on Sunday at the Ford Performance Centre, Minten’s attitude is one that any of the prospects on the ice with him would be wise to follow. Minten’s lack of pretension hasn’t changed since he was drafted in the second round of the 2022 draft by the Leafs.

Upon being returned to the Kamloops Blazers last year, Minten soon was traded to the Saskatoon Blades and had 38 points (19 goals and 19 assists) in 36 games before recording 14 points in 16 playoff games.

At this development camp, he has been skating on a line with a couple of other high-end Leafs prospects, Easton Cowan and Nick Moldenhauer.

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Whether Leafs general manager Brad Treliving makes further additions to his forward group, and many think that will happen in the next couple of months, Minten has a firm idea of what his outlook will be heading into camp. There will be a different head coach to impress, too, with Craig Berube having taken over from Sheldon Keefe in May.

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It could turn out that a season with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League in 2024-25 might be best for Minten’s path to a full-time job in the NHL. That is to be determined.

“It’s about leaving everything out there for me,” Minten said. “As a young guy, you don’t have anything to fall back on if people show you up. If you’re not in that top four centres or top 12 forwards, you’re not going to get a look. You have to knock the door down.”

CROSBY CONNECTION

Jacob Quillan, a native of Dartmouth, N.S., didn’t hesitate when he was asked about his favourite NHL player as a kid.

“Probably Sidney Crosby,” Quillan said. “I grew up five minutes from him. I watched him growing up, trying to take little things that he does. He plays the game so detailed and so well. Whatever he does out there, I try to mimic.”

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Quillan apparently picked up something in studying Crosby to go with his natural talent.

The Leafs signed the 22-year-old forward to a two-year entry-level contract in April and he joined the Marlies for 10 games, including seven in the regular season and three in the playoffs.

The signing came after Quillan’s third season at Quinnipiac University, where he had 46 points in 39 games in ’23-’24.

In 2023, Quillan scored in overtime against Matthew Knies and the University of Minnesota to clinch the NCAA title. And no, Quillan said, he and Knies have not talked about it.

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Brendan Fitzgerald is held by his dad Tom Fitzgerald during his days with the Maple Leafs.
Brendan Fitzgerald is held by his dad Tom Fitzgerald during his days with the Maple Leafs. Photo by Handout /Brendan Fitzgerald

FAMILIAR FACE

When the Leafs called during last season and said they were interested in having him come to development camp, defenceman Brendan Fitzgerald quickly got in touch with his dad.

It was nothing different than what the majority of prospects would do. But when your father is former Leafs forward Tom Fitzgerald, now the GM of the New Jersey Devils, there was a little more to the news.

“He’s proud of me and it was cool for both of us,” Brendan said. “Pretty much everything in hockey, I’ve learned from him. I grew up idolizing him and I still idolize him. The ice stuff he has taught me, carry yourself in a certain way and be a good teammate and all the intangibles (was important).”

The youngest of four brothers, Brendan was born in Toronto in March 2003 during his dad’s first of two seasons playing with the Leafs. A free agent who is heading into his second year at the University of New Hampshire, Brendan attended the Devils’ development camp last summer.

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“He really enjoyed his time (with the Leafs),” Brendan said of his dad. “He knew they would take care of me this week and said to enjoy it.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Minten’s advice to his fellow prospects heading into the scrimmage: “Just go have fun. It’s just one game. Nobody is going to make or break their careers on this game. It’s just a fun scrimmage to try to put into play some of the stuff we’ve been working on.” … A highlight for Ben Danford, the Leafs’ first-round pick in Las Vegas last week, was when his phone buzzed with a text from Leafs captain John Tavares, welcoming Danford to the organization. “He’s such a high-character guy and such a high-calibre player,” Danford said. “To get a text from him, it means a lot. I took it to heart.” … Minten said he and another player, presumably Kyle Bettens, who turned 23 on Thursday, were greeted with a birthday cake by Leafs assistant GM, player development, Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser on Friday night as the camp participants gathered. “That was really nice of her,” Minten said. “It was an awkward happy birthday in front of everybody, singing the song, but it was good.”

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