Cole Eiserman scored 58 goals in 57 games in 2023-24. ©2024, Rena Levarty, Team USA NTDP

NHL Draft: USA prospect Cole Eiserman could be intriguing choice for Sabres

BUFFALO – Nick Fohr, Cole Eiserman’s coach at the Team USA National Team Development Program, has tried to dissect what makes the 2024 NHL Draft prospect’s shot so lethal.

“Like, is it release? Is it just how hard it is?” Fohr wondered. “I don’t have a 100 percent answer to it, but I definitely think the pace that it comes off his stick is elite.”

Eiserman’s shot is so dynamic that at the recent World Under-18 Junior Championship in Finland, Fohr said the tournament clocked the winger’s shot 20 kilometers per hour faster than his next-closest teammate.

Fohr found the gaudy number converted to 100.8 miles per hour.

“That’s like within the game, right?” Fohr told the Times Herald. “That’s not a skills competition where you put a puck out there and see how hard can you shoot it. So that’s pretty impressive to be able to shoot the puck that hard in a game.”

The 6-foot, 197-pound Eiserman’s ultra-quick release and heavy shot – YouTube has several sizzle reels of him unleashing the puck down low and scoring – make him one of junior hockey’s elite scorers.

The Massachusetts native wowed throughout his two years at the NTDP, scoring a NTDP-record 127 goals in 119 games for the Under-17 and -18 teams. He registered 58 goals and 89 points in just 57 contests in 2023-24.

“Cole is just a pure goal scorer,” Fohr said. “That’s what he’s been his whole life.”

Still, Eiserman, 17, understands he must develop into a more well-rounded player. His game has been analyzed and picked apart. His shot’s nice, but it will only take him so far.

Fair or not, he carries a reputation for being a one-dimensional scoring threat. NHL Central Scouting ranks him 12th among North American skaters for next Friday’s NHL Draft. He stood eighth on Central Scouting’s midterm list.

“Whether it’s truthful or not, it definitely slipped a little bit,” Eiserman said June 8 following fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in LECOM Harborcenter. “I still think I’m at the top of the draft skill-wise and where I should be.”

Fohr said dropping still bothers Eiserman.

“I don’t know if he ever totally got away from it, honestly,” he said. “It was just so in his face.”

If he lasts until the 11th pick, Eiserman could be an intriguing choice for the Sabres, a team he spoke to at the combine.

Fohr and his staff worked with Eiserman for two years to help him develop into a two-way player who possesses skills away from the puck.

Once, Fohr briefly moved the youngster, a natural winger, to center. His assistants thought it was crazy, but Fohr wanted him to get a feel for the position. Another time, the team spent an entire week practicing play without the puck. At the end of one session, Eiserman looked so frustrated Fohr thought he might break his stick over his leg.

“He had had enough,” Fohr said. “I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He’s like, ‘Man, it’s been a hard week.’ … I said, ‘This is the stuff you struggled with.’ I said, ‘You’re gonna be frustrated with this.’

“I said, ‘You haven’t had to learn stuff like this because you’ve still excelled in scoring. Now, you’re having to learn how to do these things, and your teammates are better than you at this.’”

Fohr and Eiserman also had some frank chats. The coach even offered to put him in more offensive situations. But Eiserman chose to evolve.

“It’s wasn’t just this year, but over the whole two-year process of, ‘Hey, we’ve got to lock this in a little bit. We’ve got to round our game out. We’ve got to become more than just a scorer,’” Fohr said. “And we spent a lot of time on it … and it was hard for him. There was moments this year where he was really, really frustrated.”

Eiserman appreciates Fohr’s honesty and tough love.

“Definitely took it to heart and tried my best every single day to be a better hockey player,” he said.

Eiserman, who plans to play at Boston University next season, believes he morphed into a sturdier presence during his final junior campaign.

“I definitely took some really big strides and found myself on five-on-six and different stuff than I was before, and I was kind of super proud of myself and my teammates, too, to kind of get there,” he said.

Fohr believes embracing a more defensive style – “He made a few mature decisions that are hard,” he said – could ultimately cost Eiserman a few spots in the draft.

“But as I told him,” he said, “in the end, whoever takes you is gonna love you.”

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