Craig’s List: Eiserman the early favourite for No. 1 in 2024
The 2023 NHL Draft is headlined by the likes of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov, but TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has a bold proclamation for 16-year-old USA Hockey National Team Development Program forward Cole Eiserman.
“If he was in this year's draft, I think he's top five,” said Button, who has Eiserman No. 1 on his list for the 2024 NHL Draft.
Eiserman, who is committed to play at the University of Minnesota in 2024-25, led the United States to gold with a dominant performance at the U17 Hockey Challenge last week in Langley, B.C., racking up 12 goals and 20 points in seven games, including a hat trick and three assists in the final. He has 18 goals and 31 points in 15 games with the USNTDP this season.
“He's already an NHL-level skater,” said Button, who compares Eiserman to New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider. “He's an excellent blend of skill, power and speed.
“He's number one for me. No question about it at this point in time.”
At No. 2 on the list is Finnish defenceman Aron Kiviharju, who has six assists in eight games with TPS’s U20 squad this season. Button thinks the 16 year old is good enough to be at the World Juniors in December.
“He's fluid in everything,” said Button. “Skating, in his thinking, in his puck skills. Everything he does is just clean and crisp.
“You can't trap him. If you are playing with him, you love playing with him because you get the puck in the right spots. To me, he plays the game like [New York Rangers defenceman] Adam Fox.”
Button believes that Eiserman and Kiviharju have separated themselves from the rest of the 2024 draft class as the clear-cut top two prospects.
At No. 3 is SKA St. Petersburg right winger Ivan Demidov, who has 10 goals and 27 points in 19 games in the MHL this season. He won gold at the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Russia with five points in five games.
“He's an elite scoring winger,” said Button of Demidov. “Dynamic scorer, he's got that quick strike ability. He sees an opening; he's grabbing it and he's taking it.”
At No. 4 and 5 are a pair of centres in Canadian Berkly Catton and Finn Konsta Helenius.
Catton, who had 12 points in seven games at the World U17s, is a rookie centre for the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs. The Saskatoon, Sask., product has three goals and 10 points in 11 games.
“A player that just plays the game completely,” said Button on Catton. “Plays competitively; he's quick, smart, invested. He's a centreman who makes everybody around him better, but he's got a real motor.”
Helenius has eight goals and 28 points in 19 games with Tappara U20. At the U17s, he had two goals and 11 points in seven games as Finland earned bronze.
“Slick, skilled, highly intelligent centreman,” said Button. “[He] makes plays, lets plays develop, and distributes the puck so well.
“He can speed up and slow down; he really keeps defenders off balance with his skill level.”
KooKoo defenceman Veeti Vaisanen is No. 6 on Craig’s List. He has 12 points in 16 games so far this season in Finland.
“He's like [Philadelphia Flyers defenceman] Ivan Provorov,” said Button of Vaisanen. “Precise efficiency in his game. All the things you need to be a go-to defenceman, excellent skater."
At No. 7 is Czech defenceman Adam Jiricek, who is looking to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, David, who was drafted sixth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in June.
“Adam controls the game,” said Button. “Smart, understands how to play in any situation and plays with a competitive focus. Capable of being a big-minutes, all-around defenceman.”
Chicago Steel forward Macklin Celebrini is at No. 8 on Craig’s List. The Vancouver native has nine goals and 14 points in nine games with the Steel this season.
“Celebrini is just a really gifted offensive player,” said Button. “Smart, creates offence, makes plays.”
At No. 9 is London Knights defenceman Sam Dickinson, who captained Canada Black at the U17s. The Toronto, Ont., product has three goals and seven points in 11 games to kick off his rookie OHL season.
“Sam can play any way you want,” said Button. “He's big, he can skate. He can play physically; he can play territorially and move the puck with his feet [and] his hands.
“When I watch him play, he just screams 15-year NHL defenceman.”
Completing the top 10 is Orebro centre Alexander Zetterberg. In 18 games this season with the J20 squad, he has seven goals and 17 points. As captain of Sweden at the U17s, he had three points in three games. The native of Sundsvall, Sweden reminds Button of a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
“He reminds me of [Tampa Bay Lightning forward] Brayden Point,” said Button. “His hockey sense is off the charts. IQ, genius level. He's quick, and he's fast and he's competitive. He just runs the show.”
Craig's List - 2024 NHL Draft Prospects
|1||Cole Eiserman||USA U17 (USA NDTP)||LW||5'11||192||7||12||20|
|2||Aron Kiviharju||TPS (SM-sarja U20)||D||5'10||165||8||0||6|
|3||Ivan Demidov||St. Petersburg (MHL)||RW||5'11||168||19||10||27|
|4||Berkly Catton||Spokane (WHL)||C||5'11||154||11||3||10|
|5||Konsta Helenius||Tappara (SM-sarja U20)||RW||5'10||168||19||8||28|
|6||Veeti Vaisanen||KooKoo (SM-sarja U20)||D||6'0||168||16||2||12|
|7||Adam Jiricek||Plzen (CZE U20)||D||6'1||152||15||4||9|
|8||Macklin Celebrini||Chicago (USHL)||F||5'11||181||9||9||14|
|9||Sam Dickinson||London (OHL)||D||6'3||194||11||3||7|
|10||Alex Zetterberg||Orebro (SWE J20)||C||5'8||154||18||7||17|