By Jody Horak
Many of the world’s top U17 hockey talent assembled in Switzerland this past February. Teams from Sweden, Finland, Czechia, Switzerland and the USA all competed in this tournament, and multiple players put on a show, however, a few prospects left much to be desired. DraftPro Hockey evaluator Jody Horak had eyes on this event filing this report of who stood out and who did not.
#34 LW, Cole Eiserman, 5’11”, 191, L, DOB 8.29.06
Eiserman stands out alone as the best forward in the tournament. He continually creates opportunities with immense speed and exceptional hands with the ability to maneuver and make creative moves anywhere on the ice. He brings so much flare to his game and is an exciting player to watch. Has tremendous goal scoring ability and his accuracy in picking his spots is incredible. He is a top 5 prospect no doubt for the 2024 NHL draft and if he keeps up the consistency and putting numbers up, he has all the potential to be the #1 pick.
#60 RW, Brodie Ziemer, 5’11”, 181, R, DOB 2.22.06
Ziemer was easily one of Team USA’s most consistent forwards. He is an extremely tough, strong forward to play against. He does a great job using his body and controlling the puck. Has great vision on the ice and makes smart plays when he has possession of the puck. Big time playmaker who also can put pucks in the net with a rapid wrist shot or going to the net hard for rebound goals.
#48 D, Cole Hutson, 5’8”, 143, L, DOB 6.28.06
Hutson was my vote for best defenseman in the tournament. He transitions quickly up ice to generate offense and has great speed and skating ability. He is a reliable, hard working and very offensively gifted defenseman. Size may become a factor in his ranking/development at the next level but he no doubt possesses many great attributes to be a top defensive prospect. Plays the game with incredible patience, moves the puck well and makes himself an option without the puck by keeping his feet moving and getting himself open.
#54 C, James Hagens, 5’10”, 152, L, DOB 11.3.06
Hagens is an explosive, dynamic player. He has great speed and keeps his feet moving constantly. Has hockey awareness to know when he has time and space to skate with the puck or dish it off to a teammate. Has incredible no-look passing capability. Smooth, quick, skilled hands. Exceptional playmaking talent with the threat of being a goal scorer. Has a great wrist shot release with high velocity in the slot area. He also catches and releases his shot quickly. Hagens is the odds-on favorite to be the #1 prospect in 2025 at the moment.
#19 RW, Adam Jecho, 6’3”, 187, R, DOB 3.24.06
Some of the hype surrounding Jecho has diminished but he still is an elite level playmaker who plays a big, solid game. Very fluid skater who accelerates quickly in open ice. Showed characteristics of a natural goal scorer with a lot of power on his shot and does not pass up opportunities to shoot the puck. He uses his size well, playing physical down low around the net and protecting the puck with his body position and has good hands controlling the puck. I think he has the tools to be a top ten prospect for the 2024 NHL draft.
#3 D, David Svozil, 6’1”, 168, L, DOB 3.7.06
The most consistent player for Team Czechia in the tournament. Svozil has great footwork in his skating, can change directions quickly in his zone and is a smooth backwards skater. Shows versatility to play all aspects of the game as he was given many minutes in all situations: power-play, penalty kill, three on three, etc. Svozil should be a highly touted defensive prospect for the 2024 draft. He plays the game with great maturity, poise and confidence. He displays the characteristics of a do-it-all type defenseman with his strong defensive game but also his decision making on when to join the play offensively and his success in creating offensive opportunities when he does. – JH
#23 C, Linus Eriksson, 6’0”, 170, L, DOB 3.23.06
Eriksson showed great speed, skating ability and finesse throughout the tournament. He is very good in the face-off circle winning draws. He is a quick and efficient passer with great vision and a smart decision maker when he has the puck. His compete level and work ethic consistently shift to shift was unmatched. He is a solid two-way center who plays just as hard in the defensive zone as the offensive zone. He was the best forward on the ice for Team Sweden most of the tournament. 2024 NHL draft eligible.
#26 C, Alexander Zetterberg, 5’8”, 154, R, DOB 4.27.06
Zetterberg shows flashes of speed and can accelerate quickly up ice. He is very smart and decisive in his passing, and does not hesitate in his puck movement. Has a great understanding of his assignments in the defensive zone and reads and anticipates the play at a high level. He showed the best hockey IQ of any player I saw in the tournament. Has great balance in tight corner battles and maintains his balance fighting through checks. Missed some time with injury but stood out in the games he played. Possesses so many high-level skills to be a first round pick. 2024 NHL draft eligible.
#3 D, Daniel Nieminen, 5’11”, 172, L, DOB 3.1.06
I thought Nieminen was Team Finland’s best defenseman. Very impressive skating ability, it does not take him long to get his motor going. Moves the puck precisely. Creates space effectively allowing him time to rush the puck up the ice. Plays a very smart, all-around game. Covers the front of his net in the defensive zone and clears pucks out. He could step up sooner defending offensive rushes, but he plays with great poise and calmness for a 16-year-old. 2024 NHL draft eligible.
#15 C, Jamiro Reber, 5’10”, 172, L, DOB 9.4.06
Reber was about the only bright spot for Team Switzerland. He plays the game with speed, and consistently hustles every shift. His passing is crisp, smart and in stride. He is an excellent forechecker and back checker and shows he can play solid two-way hockey. Has a few moves in his toolbox that are successful in freezing opponents and he can use his speed to get around them. He gets his shot off quickly and has a harder wrist shot than I expected. 2024 NHL draft eligible (barely).
#22 C, Karl Sterner, 6’3”, 185, L, DOB 3.29.06
Sterner is considered a high-end prospect for the 2024 NHL draft and he failed to impress me in this tournament. He is a big bodied forward who skates very well. He stands around too much waiting for something to happen instead of being aggressive and making it happen himself. He lacked hustle and effort on some shifts. He has tremendous ability and skill, I just expected to see him get more shot opportunities and create more offensive chances with his playmaking.
#5 D, Bruno Jalasti, 6’0”, 170, R, DOB 3.24.06
Jalasti does not get his feet moving quickly in transition. Tends to lose sight of his coverage in front of his own net. He moves the puck well but does not catch passes cleanly all the time and it results in turnovers in his own zone. He blocks shots and gets shots off from the point. He has a hard release on his slap shot. I expected to see a sound defensive game from Jalasti and just didn’t see enough of it in this tournament.
I thought goaltending lacked a real standout between the pipes. In all fairness to the US though, they just didn’t see enough pucks or get tested enough to really see what they can do. It is the international level, but there were just far too many goals scored and not enough timely, game changing saves. Apart from Jakub Milota, who didn’t even play the final, of Team Czechia in the shootout win against Sweden, no goaltender really won a game for their team. Goaltending failed to impress this tournament which is a bummer.
If you are looking for a mid-season rundown on the 2023 draft class as a whole be sure to pick up your copy of the Draft Prospects Hockey 2023 Preview Magazine available for instant download or print through Amazon.