PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Cole Eiserman scored 69 goals in 62 games with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-17 and Under-18 teams last season.
Yet, the top prospect for the 2024 NHL Draft is focused on making his dynamic shot even better.
“I’m kind of just working on feeling the puck, not being able to look down on the ice and being able to look at the goalie the whole the time and trying to find those spots,” Eiserman said.
He certainly hasn’t had trouble finding open spots on goalies to this point in his hockey career.
Eiserman (5-foot-11, 190 pounds), who won’t turn 17 until Aug. 29, set a record for most goals in a season by an Under-17 player at the NTDP, blowing past the previous mark of 54 set by Cole Caufield in 2017-18. It also was the second-most goals in a season by any player at the NTDP behind Caufield’s 72 in 2018-19.
As a 16-year-old, Eiserman’s shot already has been compared to Caufield and another NTDP alum, Auston Matthews, who is third on the single-season goals list with 54 in 2014-15.
Eiserman said there’s a surreal quality to seeing his name alongside two NHL stars.
“I watched those guys growing up,” he said. “When you see it up there, it’s just kind of just a thing that you’ve worked hard for. So, it’s kind of a cool thing, but you got to keep going for it.”
That work includes deeper studies of some of the elite shooters in the NHL to see what he can add into his game.
“I think I’m really good at watching the really good guys who shoot and kind of taking bits and pieces of what they do well and kind of practicing on that and to kind of bring it into my shot,” he said. “I watch Matthews. I obviously watch (Connor) Bedard with his shot and then you watch (Alex) Ovechkin’s one-timer, and you’ve got guys like (Victor) Olofsson, who’s a lefty, his one-timer is unreal. So just watch guys like that.”
Eiserman is a left-handed shot and showcased his one-timer during the 2023 World Junior Summer Showcase, using it to score a power-play goal from the right face-off circle against Finland on Saturday.
It’s his favored spot, but far from the only area he can score from.
“He’s the complete package for the next level,” NHL Central Scouting director David Gregory said. “He’s an elite shooter who already can score from anywhere in the attacking zone. Excellent ability to get himself open and ready to shoot. Also makes good decisions on went to fake a shot and find an open teammate.”
Eiserman played most of last season with the NTDP U-17 team, scoring 43 goals in 42 games. But he fit seamlessly with the U-18 team, first when he was called up because of an injury and scored two goals against Michigan Tech on Oct. 8, or when he returned Feb. 24 and had a hat trick against Lindenwood University.
He finished with 26 goals in 20 games with the U-18 team, including nine in seven games for the United States at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, tied with teammate William Smith (San Jose Sharks) for the tournament lead.
That success has helped prepare him for the uptick in competition he’ll face as a full-time member of the NTDP U-18 team this season, and in his goal to play for the U.S. at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.
It’s rare for a 17-year-old to have a significant role at the World Juniors, but Eiserman is a rare breed.
“Anytime you score 69 goals, you’re definitely a good hockey player,” U.S. forward Rutger McGroarty (Winnipeg Jets) said. “It’ll be a big year for him going into his draft year and I feel like he’s awesome. He deserves to be here. He’s a great player and he fits in just like everybody else. He’s a mature kid. He’s strong. He’s physical. He’s fast. He’s a great player. He’s a great guy.”
The expectation is for Eiserman to continue showing how great he can be leading to the 2024 draft. He’s expected to be one of the top two selections, along with Boston University freshman forward Macklin Celebrini.
Eiserman got a preview of what’s to come at the 2023 NHL Draft, when he traveled to Nashville to celebrate some of his friends getting selected. He admits to thinking about what it would sound like to hear his name called.
“I mean, I’ve thought of it since I was really young,” he said. “So, it’ll be cool when that day happens.”
Photos: Rena Laverty/USA Hockey