January 27, 2024

Examining Eiserman’s case as the 2024 draft’s top goal-scorer

Cole Eiserman is legit.

Eiserman, a projected top pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, is a name many have been raving about long before attention turned to this year’s class. For good reason.

The 17-year-old standout for the US National Team Development Program has been a star at every level he has played at. In fact, there are only two recorded instances where he did not score at a goal-per-game pace in his career. Those instances are a Brick Invitational tournament in 2015-16, when he was nine years old, and in his 32 United States Hockey League-level games from last season.

Still, at the Brick Invitational, he had five goals in seven games, and he netted 28 goals in 32 games in USHL action last season.

But what else does Eiserman bring to the table?

Get to know Eiserman

Eiserman, from Newburyport, Massachusetts, was born on August 29th, 2006 and is one of the youngest in the class. He stands at 5-foot-11 and 192 pounds, and the left-shot forward largely patrols the left-wing position. He’s logged 28 games total so far this season, netting an impressive 50 points (29 goals, 21 assists). Those totals include 10 USHL contests, where he recorded 16 points (11 goals, five assists). He’s currently committed to Boston University. 

Eiserman graded out as an A-level prospect in FCHockey’s Preliminary ranking for the 2024 draft back in October, and is tracking as a top-10 pick in its Midterm release later this month.

Eiserman’s skating needs some refinement

First, let’s start with Eiserman’s skating.

Eiserman is a strong skater overall. On the surface, he has very good speed and can beat defenders wide on occasion, however he does lack that extra gear to truly burn defenders on a consistent basis. He builds speed with strong crossovers that allows him to generate good power to gain speed quickly, and the way he reaches top speeds looks effortless at times. There is room for improvement, though, and it starts with his mechanics. He does get low and display strong technical strides, but he tends to be a bit choppy at times, taking away that extra bit of power he can gain. Learning how to lengthen his stride is a simple, yet potentially effective, way of reaching that extra gear. 

The biggest concern at this time with his skating is in his edges. While his crossovers do generate power and he uses them really efficiently, Eiserman does not use them enough. As a matter of fact, when watching his game, you’ll notice that he can take these wide, long turns that take him out of the play. It impacted his ability to have a big influence in the transitional game, specifically in regards to gaining the offensive zone.

It also hinders his ability to defend. If the puck changes directions on him, he often does not stop on the puck to change directions with the play. Instead, he will loop back around and take several seconds to return to position. That won’t be tolerated at the NHL level and absolutely needs to be cleaned up. The worry is that this is more of a habitual issue, and for someone who has been playing this way his whole life, these habits could be difficult to fix. 

Eiserman’s offensive game is raw talent at an extreme level

Some people are just born with it, whatever that may be.

For Eiserman, he was born with a goal-scoring ability that is rivaled by very few, if any, at his age. In fact, his raw shooting ability rivals even current NHLers. Eiserman, hands-down, is the best pure goal-scorer in the draft class. His shot features a quick release, tons of power, and deadly accuracy. He can get shots off from anywhere and pose a threat. Not only that, but he can shoot regardless of what’s around him, showing an innate awareness to change his release point if needed, making him so difficult to read for goaltenders. It cannot be stressed enough, this guy can score goals at will. 

As a result, Eiserman’s playmaking feels overlooked. That’s not to say he is super underrated as a playmaker and that people are underestimating him in this area, but it’s also fair to say that he has flashed vision and passing traits that show some untapped dual-threat potential. He does not pass often enough and, frequently, he will have blinders up that reveals a touch of tunnel-vision. Sometimes all he sees is the net, and he will shoot at will. But there really is something there that could be built in terms of passing skill, and it will be interesting to see if someone can unlock that, even if just a small bit of it. 

The numbers behind Eiserman’s offensive dominance

There are many micro-stats recorded to truly show what impacts he had when tracking Eiserman. Let’s start with even-strength play.

As a shooter, Eiserman fired six total shots at even-strength, hitting the net on all six of them. Of those shots, three were from high-danger areas — below the hash marks, between the dots — and two were from medium-danger — below the circles, just outside the dots. Meanwhile, he attempted 12 offensive-zone passes, completing five of them (41.67%).

While that is a low mark, eight of those 12 attempts were considered high-danger passes, detailed as cross-ice passes, slot passes. Of those eight, he completed three of them (37.5%). Additionally, he set up three shot assists — passes that led directly to shots — with two of them generating scoring chances. In all, he is very efficient at working the puck into high-danger for himself while also constantly looking for teammates via passing attempts in those areas, but to a far less efficient degree. 

As for the micro-stats, two of his incomplete passes were intercepted, while five were inaccurate but did not lead to a turnover. In essence, of his seven incomplete passes, just two lost his team possession. Meanwhile, he also gave the puck away in the offensive zone four times, while forcing three turnovers off of a forechecker. With the intercepted passes included, he had six offensive zone giveaways to three takeaways across three games at even-strength. 

Power play dominance

It is no secret who runs the operation when Eiserman is on the power play. He plays the point and half-wall area on his off-side. From that spot, he managed to get off 12 shot attempts, with six hitting the target (50%). Of those attempts, seven were from high-danger, with three on net (one goal). The other five of his shots came from medium-danger, where three were on net. The six shots that were not on net wound up being blocked or tipped wide. As for his passing, he attempted 13 offensive zone passes, completing 11 of them (84.62%). Of those 13 attempts, just two were high-danger and only one was completed, while three more were medium-danger with a perfect completion rate. Eiserman completed seven of his eight passes considered low-danger — passes to the point, below the goal line. The two incomplete passes were inaccurate, but did not lead into turnovers. 

Outside of his shooting and passing stats, Eiserman had two giveaways without a single takeaway. That means, between even-strength and the man-advantage, Eiserman combined for two intercepted passes, six giveaways, and three takeaways. That is ultimately a minus-five giveaway-takeaway ratio in the offensive zone. 

Offensive game summation

Ultimately, Eiserman is a shoot-first, think-later player. He knows what kind of a weapon his shot is, and he uses it at will every chance he gets.

He will attack the slot area with his passes when given an opportunity, and will set up one-timers on occasion. But his game is as a shooter. What aids in his ability to score and be so efficient is not just in his raw shooting or confidence. It also doesn’t just include his ability to get into the slot with the puck. It is also his understanding of spacing and being able to exploit open pockets of space away from the puck. He knows how to get open with regularity for his teammates, and he makes it somewhat easy to find him. 

That ability to not only find space but to simultaneously make the passing lane a relatively easier one for his linemates is what makes Eiserman’s scoring potential so tantalizing. Now, just imagine if he can become even slightly more consistent and willing as a playmaker to set up teammates. He could truly be deadly as an offensive presence, moreso than what anyone considers at this time. His offensive potential alone, with a strong playmaker on his line, could have him hitting the 30-plus goal mark at the NHL level. Without a top playmaker, he could still hit the 20-plus mark. That’s how good he is from inside the offensive zone. 

Eiserman’s transitional game raises some concerns

Despite how good he is offensively, it was mentioned earlier that with a top playmaker… he could find that high ceiling as a scorer.

Well, in his overall game, it can be argued he needs a play-driver to hit his top-end potential. That’s a pretty large claim, to say a potential top-three pick can’t be a play-driver. However, there are legitimate concerns. When it comes to transitioning the puck up ice, players who can break open games in this area are highly sought after. The superstars in the NHL who dominate in transition set themselves apart at times from other superstars who aren’t quite as good in that area. Think Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, even Connor Bedard, who all dominate transitionally. Eiserman has not shown that ability. 

When it comes to entering the offensive zone, Eiserman seemingly struggles with spacing and decision-making. At times, he will skate into traffic, attempting to sift through them a la Bedard when with Regina in the Western Hockey League. He does not have the stickhandling juice to do that — at least not yet — on a consistent enough basis. Additionally, there are times where he just makes head-scratching decisions, electing not to pass to teammates who are open with a clear lane into the zone, just to pass to a teammate facing significant coverage. 

Entry numbers are very telling

At even-strength, in those same tracked games, Eiserman was involved directly in 23 zone entry attempts. Of those, he generated just seven controlled entries, considered entries with possession, either skating in himself or passing to a teammate who enters the zone directly following said pass. That is a less-than-stellar 30.43% controlled entry rate. Meanwhile, he failed outright on 10 attempts, either knocked off the puck before or shortly after attempting to cross the blue, or passing to a teammate was intercepted. That’s 43.48% of his attempts failing. 

Additionally, that leaves six dump-ins. Of those, just one was retrieved by linemates, essentially meaning that 15 entry attempts did not lead to an entry with possession (65.22%). Then, there’s the consequences. Generally, everyone on the team is flowing up ice when looking to gain the offensive zone. Or, if forwards are entering, defenders tend to try and go for a line change. Thus, turnovers on a failed entry could be costly. It was for Eiserman on his failed attempts, as twice in the three games, his failed entries led directly to goals against on the ensuing rush. 

Eiserman’s defensive game is better than advertised

Everywhere you look, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a positive outlook, or really any comments, about Eiserman’s defensive game. 

As mentioned above, the issue for him in his own end falls back on his edges. However, when he is in his own end and in position, he truly displays good anticipation and stickwork. He also shows a strong motor, pressuring the point man and helping out down low. But perhaps his best strength is his poise and smarts with the puck on his stick in the defensive zone.

While he struggles to gain entry on his own into the offensive zone, it is a totally different story when it comes to exiting the defensive zone. As a matter of fact, it’s almost like he is a completely different player. He executes tight window passes consistently. Another aspect of his game that is only truly shown in his own end is his ability to accurately complete area passes, which teammates comfortably skate into. Eiserman was involved directly in 20 zone exit attempts. Of those, he successfully cleared the defensive zone with possession on 15 of them (75%). Additionally, he chipped the puck out four times, leaving just one failed exit in those games. 

Eiserman’s in-zone defensive work

While Eiserman was efficient at clearing the zone, that doesn’t always explain the whole story.

On top of tracking exit stats, Eiserman also had 21 total defensive zone touches across the three games, defined as any time he clearly had possession of the puck in the defensive zone. He only gave the puck away once (4.76%). On top of that, he disrupted two opposing entry attempts himself, forced two turnovers in the defensive zone, and blocked two shots. All-in-all, pretty solid. 

Again, his skating, specifically his edges, cost him and his team at times. Coming back late because of a wide turn on several occasions left his team temporarily shorthanded, allowing the opposition to generate some chances. Additionally, there were times where he would cheat up ice, and when the puck didn’t get to him he was late to recover. If he can improve his edges and work on stopping on the puck or completing tighter turns, his defensive game could round out. But, he is inconsistent with his effort level.

While he is engaged more often than not, he can also be caught floating at times, sliding out of position and leaving his assignment open. That needs to be cleaned up as well. All things considered with how strong he is offensively, he is at a good place in his defensive game. Minor tweaks here and there, and he’ll at least keep his head above water for his team and will not be a liability.

Eiserman summary and potential

Eiserman will almost assuredly be an NHL player one day. There’s very little doubt that crosses many minds about that.

Yet, it is to what degree of impact he will have on the game for whatever team calls his name on draft day. On the surface, you have a player that will likely be a 20-30-plus goal-scorer at minimum. That’s based on just how dangerous of a shot he has paired with his understanding of spacing and creating open passing lanes for his linemates. However, he currently provides just flashes of playmaking potential, making him a bit one-dimensional as an offensive player. Paired with his consistent struggles with generating zone entries and a reliance on his linemates to get the puck up ice, there’s some worries. 

Those worries are about whether he can lead his own line, driving play on his own which begs the question of, in a draft as stacked as the 2024 class appears, is Eiserman truly a game-breaking talent that warrants a top-three pick? If a team feels confident that they have the right pieces to build around Eiserman to account for those concerns, then absolutely. He has the potential to be a 40-50-plus goal-scorer with the right opportunities. But as a stand-alone talent, he may not have the traits to drive his own line.

Ultimately, he is still a player that warrants an early selection. But the red flags have appeared in his game.

What we’re saying about Eiserman

“Eiserman is a speedy winger with a lethal shot… His best quality by far is his shot. He possesses many different releases and a cannon of a one-timer. Eiserman is also a very strong skater, winning almost every puck race he competed in. An underrated part of Eiserman’s game is his playmaking. Defenders are so concerned about his shot that he’s able to push the defenders back for an easy slip pass to a cutting teammate. All these offensive tools make him a nightmare to defend. In addition to this, Eiserman has a non-stop motor, creating tons of turnovers and winning the majority of puck battles… With the right development, I could see him being a 1st line forward in the NHL and a fantastic half-wall player on the power play.” — FCHockey crossover scout Brody Melsted

“Eiserman is an absolute pure shooter with the ability to finish and score goals from anywhere on the ice. He keeps his head up when shooting, displaying pinpoint accuracy and quick feet that pump when he receives the puck. He has a nose for the net, lurking around for rebounds and always ready to score garbage goals as well as nifty snipes… Eiserman’s nifty hands come into play when he’s pressured by an opponent, allowing him to release the puck with ease in tight situations. He displays deceptiveness in his release by changing the angle of his blade as he cuts to the slot. This allows him to hide his release a bit or as a tool to continue to fake and move by a defender. Overall, this player is an exceptional finisher and shooter with impressive accuracy, speed, and deceptiveness in his game.” — FCHockey crossover scout Aaron Vickers

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