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Could the Leafs trade up for Cole Eiserman at the 2024 NHL Draft?

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Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Alex Hobson
28 days ago
We’re just under three weeks out from the 2024 NHL Draft and with the Florida Panthers up 2-0 on the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final, the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to re-enter the headlines (depending on who you ask, they never left).
The Leafs’ intentions at the draft were somewhat up in the air last season. Brad Treliving assumed his role as general manager only a month before the Leafs took to the stage. On top of that, they were coming off a rare win in the first round, giving them a little bit of a leash to work with under the premise of beating the curse instead of the usual uproar going out in Round 1. This year is a different story. The Leafs did not build on last season, failing to overcome their biggest playoff demon in the Boston Bruins and going out in seven games, marking seven first round losses in eight years since the turn of the tide. Treliving also has a year of experience under his belt at this point, and with Mitch Marner without a new contract and staring down the barrel of his final year on the current contract, they have a legitimate piece to dangle if they’re looking to shake things up at the draft.
Under former general manager Kyle Dubas, the Leafs have been known to trade down in the draft and stockpile picks. They haven’t traded up in the draft since 2011 when they traded the picks that turned into forward Rickard Rakell and goaltender John Gibson to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a first round pick they used to select forward Tyler Biggs. Not exactly a shining endorsement of the premise of trading up, but that was also 13 years and four regimes ago.
The NHL Draft Combine was on Saturday, which is usually when we start to hear about which teams interviewed which players, and according to Andrew Forbes of The Hockey Writers, it turns out the Leafs talked to somebody who isn’t supposed to be available anywhere near 23rd overall, where they’re scheduled to make their first round pick.
The player in question here is Cole Eiserman, a 6-foot-tall, 196-pound forward who is ranked as high as fourth overall on some rankings and as low as 16th overall on others. The name of his game is goal-scoring – the Boston University commit is arguably the best goal-scorer in the draft, scoring a combined 83 goals in 82 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2023-24 with 123 points in total over those games. He can do damage from any area of the ice and has a physical game that flies under the radar, both in terms of laying body checks and taking a beating in front of the net. He put on a clinic at the U18 World Championships, scoring nine goals through seven games.
Let’s make one thing clear right off the bat – the conversation between the Leafs and Eiserman could very well mean absolutely nothing. It’s not uncommon for teams to interview players who won’t be in their range in the event they slip, as they always do. The variety of his rankings suggests that he could be somebody who slips, but that’s nothing more than a possibility and shouldn’t be an expectation. In that same breath, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Leafs are expecting him to slip. They could be expressing interest in trading up into a position where they’d be able to select him.
It’s important to note that all of the players in this graphic are expected to go in the late first round, around 23rd overall, or beyond that. Eiserman is in a tier of his own compared to the rest of the players listed, which sparks the intrigue of the conversation he had with the Leafs. It’s also worth noting that the Leafs almost certainly interviewed more than these six players, but when a player like Eiserman is involved, it turns your head a little bit.
So, is a trade-up in the draft possible? Well, let’s take a look at the assets available. According to PuckPedia.com, the Leafs have seven picks to play with in total, but they’re without a second round pick and a third round pick. This will likely make a pick-based trade hard to pull off (i.e. moving 23rd overall and a pair of second-rounders for a top-ten pick), but the assets don’t end at draft picks. They could look to dangle Nick Robertson, who just played his first full season with the Leafs but hasn’t been able to establish a consistent spot in the top nine, or Timothy Liljegren, the once-highly touted defensive prospect who slipped to them in 2017 but hasn’t been able to take that next step. And, of course, there’s the big fish in Marner.
He could certainly command a first round pick in the range of 5-15th overall, but the issue isn’t so much the return as much as it’s the obstacles the Leafs will need to navigate on their end. Most notably, Marner’s no-move clause. It was recently reported that the Leafs aren’t going to actively look to move him unless they get an offer that makes them consider it, so unless a team like the New Jersey Devils (10th overall) calls them up about a potential Marner-Sheldon Keefe reunion, or perhaps a team like the Philadelphia Flyers (12th overall) or the San Jose Sharks (14th overall), I wouldn’t expect to see the Leafs pitch any of those teams an offer involving Marner. That, and who knows if he would waive for any of those teams.
Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no deal to be made here. The Sharks have done a great job of padding their prospect pool in recent years, selecting Will Smith fourth overall in 2023 and William Eklund seventh overall in 2021, and now that they’re almost certainly going to select Macklin Celebrini at first overall, they could be a little extra willing to dangle that 14th overall pick. Perhaps something like 23rd overall and Liljegren would sway their interest? A young, up-and-coming team like San Jose could be a good fit for the Leafs’ defenceman, but again, there might not be a move here unless someone Eiserman is falling in the ranks. The Leafs are a contending team and traditionally shouldn’t be worried about trading up, but for a player like Eiserman, it would be worth it. He would instantly be their best prospect and form a threatening duo up the left side of the ice with Matthew Knies, and he’s close enough to NHL-ready that he could make his debut in next year’s playoffs, provided whichever team that drafts him feels he’s ready.
Either way, it’s something to keep an eye on. This is the first time in recent memory it’s been reported that the Leafs are talking to a player of Eiserman’s status despite being out of his expected range. While I wouldn’t recommend buying jerseys, it’s an interesting storyline to follow into the draft, even if it’s not for Eiserman specifically.

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