The USA Hockey Nationwide Crew Improvement Program has been some of the spectacular pipelines in hockey in recent times. From Auston Matthews and Jack Hughes to Charlie McAvoy and Adam Fox, the NTDP has produced an insane quantity of high-end NHL gamers over time. This 12 months’s group is extremely fascinating with a mixture of prime expertise eligible for the 2024 and 2025 NHL drafts.
There’s a very actual probability that this workforce has the primary general decide in every of these two drafts. We should see how the following 12 months (or two) play out however the expertise on this 12 months’s U-18 NTDP squad is plain. Let’s dive into a few of the prime gamers and what to anticipate from them this 12 months.
Cole Eiserman, LW, 2024 NHL Draft
It’s lengthy been rumored that Cole Eiserman was placing some thought into decommitting from the College of Minnesota and as first reported by New England Hockey Journal’s Evan Marinofsky, it lastly occurred. The rationale given was that he needed to play nearer to residence. The Newburyport, Mass. native will probably be taking his skills to Boston College to affix a program that already boasts famous person defenseman Lane Hutson and the participant he is perhaps competing with for the primary general decide within the 2024 NHL draft – Macklin Celebrini.
Final season, Eiserman took the hockey world by storm, scoring a mixed 69 objectives with the Underneath-17 and Underneath-18 groups final season, setting a file for NTDP gamers in his age group. He was simply three objectives shy of the NTDP’s single-season goal-scoring file held by Cole Caufield. Eiserman will probably look to take that file down this season with the U-18 squad.
Eiserman is a goal-scoring machine who has among the finest pure releases we’ve seen come via the draft in the previous few seasons. What has scouts salivating over his potential is the physicality that he can deliver to the sport when he desires to. He’s a big-bodied winger who can rating. What workforce wouldn’t need that?
James Hagens, C, 2025 NHL Draft
Though Eiserman is the most important identify for the 2024 NHL draft from this 12 months’s model of the NTDP, James Hagens might in the end be the very best participant on the roster. He’s the youngest participant on the roster, however he performs with a maturity properly past his years.
His means to drive play and create offense for everybody else on the ice is solely implausible. Hagens is a fast-paced heart that blends creativity and tactical precision. Hagens is called a playmaker primarily, however he routinely reminds these watching that he can discover the again of the web as properly with a depraved wrister. Hagens has a fast launch with pinpoint accuracy.
The Boston School commit isn’t simply an offensive dynamo as his defensive sport is stronger than most gamers his age. He understands how one can assist teammates in his personal zone and does a wonderful job of filling a gap for a defender pinching on the blueline. Hagens understands how one can flip a sensible play within the defensive zone right into a harmful play within the attacking zone.
Hagens might not be eligible for this 12 months’s draft, however he heads into his DY-1 season as the favourite to go first general subsequent 12 months. He has torn up each degree of hockey that he’s performed at and that shouldn’t cease this 12 months as he takes a run on the USHL circuit for a second 12 months earlier than heading to school. Hagens is the overall bundle, and he will probably be one of many greatest causes to observe the NTDP.
Max Plante, RW, 2024 NHL Draft
Typically a participant is greater than the sum of their elements due to their mind and their understanding for the event of play. Max Plante is that participant for the NTDP. He has been enjoying alongside Hagens to begin the season and he has been a wonderful complementary piece for the play-driving pivot.
Plante stands simply 5-foot-10 however he’s an lively participant who works arduous on each shift. He’s matured a bit bodily this 12 months and his shot seems extra harmful due to it, however his passing and play-connecting means goes to be the calling card in his sport. He understands how one can make the best play on the proper time. He needs to be one of many extra fascinating secondary gamers within the NTDP’s ahead group this upcoming season.
Kamil Bednarik, C, 2024. NHL Draft
In what needs to be one of many extra fascinating storylines to observe this season with the NTDP, Kamil Bednarik may very well be a sneaky wager to be the second NTDP participant taken within the 2024 draft. He’s an excellent two-way participant who can play in all conditions for the workforce. Bednarik pressures opponents once they have the possession, trying to dislodge the puck from them with a well-timed stick examine with a willingness to interact with the physique when wanted. He was a key penalty-killer for the NTDP final 12 months and will proceed that pattern this 12 months.
Offensively, Bednarik is a twin menace who performs a flexible sport. He can rating from distance with a well-placed snap shot or puck deal with in tight to open up a netminder to sneak it previous them. He’s a crisp passer who helps make his teammates higher by drawing in strain after which discovering them in glorious place. There aren’t many weaknesses in Bednarik’s sport, so the most important query is simply how excessive his potential is.
Christian Humphreys, C, 2024 NHL Draft
Humphreys is a participant who might not play the flashiest or most in-your-face sport, however he at all times appears to search out his means onto the scoresheet. Humphreys performs a tactical sport, trying to exploit errors quite than drive them. He performs a reasonably easy sport, however he has seemingly discovered some chemistry with Cole Eiserman to begin the 12 months.
Humphreys is a complementary participant who can assist make life simpler on his linemates by making fast passes, play the bumper in transition, and act as an outlet when the play driver must off-load the puck to a teammate. The largest query with Humphreys heading into this season is whether or not or not can he add a bit extra substance to the stable stat strains that he’s routinely put collectively.
Brodie Ziemer, RW, 2024
A shifty ahead who’s at all times enjoying along with his foot on the fuel, Ziemer has the talent and capturing expertise to be one of many NTDP’s greatest gamers exterior of the massive two. The 5-foot-11 ahead performs with underrated tenacity and drive and will get to the entrance of the web. He rolls off defenders properly to make himself a passing choice and he can work via site visitors with glorious edgework.
Ziemer might not have the identical identify worth as Hagens or Eiserman however the flashes of expertise make him some of the thrilling gamers on the workforce. Whether or not he’s feathering a saucer move to the slot on the frenzy or sliding into the within lane on the defender to deflect the puck on objective, he does quite a lot of actually sensible issues offensively. This 12 months will probably be about refining his sport and placing all of it collectively a bit extra usually.
Cole Hutson, LHD, 2024 NHL Draft
Whereas his older brother Lane, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, has been a widely known commodity for a number of years now, Cole made his mark final season with the NTDP U-17 workforce. He performs an analogous number of artistic and skill-based hockey from the blueline, trying to manipulate and embarrass opposing gamers on the best way to spotlight reel performs. Cole is listed at 5-foot-10 so he’s a bit greater than his brother, however the identical defensive deficiencies are prevalent in his sport.
The youthful Hutson is a catalyst from the again finish and will put up some very stable level totals as a draft-eligible participant, however the defensive sport goes to be as a lot or extra of a piece in progress than his brother’s was on the similar age. Cole is an excellent skater and his mind with the puck will take him far. He might want to give attention to enhancing away from the puck although and making higher selections as to not put himself or his workforce in unhealthy spots. The upside may be very excessive however there may be fairly a little bit of threat with Cole. It will likely be fascinating to see how he progresses this 12 months as a result of the increase or bust potential is big.
Logan Hensler, RHD, 2025 NHL Draft
The second-youngest participant on the workforce might wind up being the very best general defenseman on the squad this 12 months. Very like Hagens up entrance, he performs a sport that’s mature past his years. He performs very sound hockey at each ends of the ice, controls play whereas he’s on the market, and makes the NTDP higher each time he steps on the ice. He might not get the love that Hutson will get as a result of he isn’t as flashy however the process-oriented Hensler is a stud.
One of the best asset that Hensler possesses is his thoughts. The 6-foot-2 right-shooting defender understands what must be finished and when, by no means bailing on a play to cheat on offense. Hensler is a methodical participant on the offensive blueline, transferring the puck effectively and successfully. His skating is high-end and his mind is the category of the blueline. By 12 months’s finish, he very properly may very well be the very best blueliner on the workforce – if he’s not that already.
Will Skahan, LHD, 2024 NHL Draft
Though offensive defensemen get all of the love, NHL groups love a giant, defense-minded blueliner who can kill play and discover teammates up ice. That’s precisely what Will Skahan is for this NTDP squad. At 6-foot-4 and 204 kilos, Skahan generally is a lot to deal with for opposing forecheckers or gamers making an attempt to determine a net-front presence. Skahan understands his function and what his talent set is, and he not often tries to do greater than what he’s able to.
There has already been some first-round buzz on Skahan early within the 12 months due to his mixture of measurement and predictability with the puck. Groups love understanding what they’ll get from a participant and Skahan by no means leaves his workforce guessing. He’s a steadying presence for the NTDP, giving them a foil to the all-out offensive sport that others deliver to the blueline.
EJ Emery, RHD, 2024 NHL Draft
A 6-foot-3 defender who continues to be very uncooked offensively, Emery is without doubt one of the most fascinating gamers on the again finish if you discuss who may take the most important step this upcoming season. He has all of the bodily instruments and the power to enhance as a participant whereas refining some issues in his sport. We’ve already seen him use his imaginative and prescient and passing up ice on the breakout a bit extra successfully to begin this season. If he can proceed to use passing lanes up ice, he may very well be a top quality transition defender as he turns into extra assured transferring the puck along with his ft.
Emery is a dual-citizen who educated and developed in British Columbia earlier than heading to Plymouth, Mich. with the NTDP. Dedicated to the College of North Dakota, Emery will probably be trying to take some large steps this 12 months and work his means up the depth chart with the NTDP this 12 months to show that he’s worthy of a prime 50 decide within the upcoming NHL draft.
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