Dan Hickling
2024 NHL Draft

USHL Stock Watch: Mac Swanson opening up opportunities for himself in Fargo

We’re in the home stretch of the USHL season, offering one final push for prospects to prove themselves to scouts before playoffs. The past month has seen some new names really impress and produce, in addition to a few names we’ve already seen plenty. Let’s take a look at who’s making a case to hear their name come draft time, and who still has some work to do. 

Stock Rising 📈

Mac Swanson - F - Fargo Force - Committed to University of North Dakota 

If you’ve followed my track record on prospects, you know that I had an affinity for another small playmaker committed to North Dakota last season, Jayden Perron

Swanson may not be as highly touted as Perron nor nearly as dynamic a skater but is one heck of a player in his own right. Swanson is a high-level puck handler and uses upper-body deception to create lanes to teammates in the offensive zone. He’ll bait defenders by looking off a shot or pass before finding a seam to a teammate in a high-danger area of the ice. Swanson isn’t the cleanest skater but churns his feet in transition to make himself an option for give-and-gos. He demonstrates some smarts of the rush, recognizing when to delay and hit support. 

There’s nothing elite in the way of shooting, but he’s got high-level smarts and is at his best when he’s facilitating through layers and relocating off-puck. The size is obviously a limiting factor, he stands at just 5’7”, but he knows how to delegate efficiently before pressure overwhelms him. With 5 points in his last 5 contests and 18 in his last 10, Swanson may just be able to overcome his physical limitations and earn himself a later round selection. 

Cole Eiserman - F - NTDP U18s - Committed to Boston University 

Eiserman has obviously fallen out of favor with a lot of scouts throughout the year, but his play at Five Nations and through his last few USHL contests have been nothing short of impressive. The shot remains his greatest asset and he’s not shy about firing the puck, curling and dragging through screens off the rush, maneuvering between the dots to give himself the best look possible, but Eiserman’s playmaking has been better of late too. 

He’s started to move the puck as defenders converge to him to challenge his shot, something he wasn’t doing consistently enough at the start of the year. He’s versatile in transition, more than capable of finding a route across the blue line but smart enough to find teammates with speed when under duress. It’s remarkable too that at this point in the year, when everyone knows where the puck is going on the U.S. powerplay, Eiserman still finds ways to score. He moves nicely off-puck and finds pockets where he can pull the trigger on his lethal one-timer. If the playmaking continues to develop, there’s no reason Eiserman can’t pull himself back into the top end of the draft and cement himself in the top 10. 

James Reeder - F - Dubuque Fighting Saints - Committed to University of Denver 

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding James Reeder this year, who came into the USHL last season with a fair amount of hype. The undersized forward plays with a ton of speed, which serves him well on both sides of the puck. He’s taken a stride this year and been especially hot of late, with 7 points in his last 5 games and 11 in his last 10. Reeder leverages his motor to anticipate passes and angle opponents outside on the forecheck. His size sometimes inhibits his ability to work the puck into high-danger spaces off the rush, but he’s deft at moving the puck early and using speed to beat defenders into space for return passes. If adds to his frame at Denver, Reeder’s got a ceiling that could merit a late-round pick come draft time. 

Stock Steady ↔️

Michael Hage - F - Chicago Steel - Committed to University of Michigan 

Let’s call this section stock steady to rising, because Hage has been dynamite for the Steel as of late and is looking more and more like a top two-round talent. Hage shines brightest off the rush, where he uses an arsenal of moves to create space for himself to navigate inside the blue line. He manipulates defenders, exchanges lanes with teammates and finds good outlets consistently, all while keeping his stride going. Hage can burn goalies with his shot too, he can curl-and-drag, pull and push, or employ any other number of tools to create high-level scoring looks for himself. There’s room for improvement in his two-way game, there are shifts where you’d love to see more engagement defensively, but this is a pretty fixable problem. Keep an eye on him as a riser through the end of the year and playoffs. 

Stock Falling 📉

Will Skahan - D - NTDP U18s - Committed to Boston College 

There’s plenty to like about Will Skahan, but I sometimes wonder if the tools are high-end enough to merit a top two-round pick. He’s a mobile backwards skater and uses his strength and reach to kill rushes early. But he’s also clunky on his transitions and can get burned around the corner by a good forward with speed. The retrieval patterns are generally reliable and he practices good habits, but there’s not a ton in the way of starting the breakout with his feet or drawing coverage to move the puck through layers. There’s some rush activation but there are games where it goes away entirely. Skahan’s solid and reliable but I’m not sure he’s nearly as crafty or creative as someone you’d swing on in the top 64.

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This article is about:
Taking Stock 2024 NHL Draft Boston College Boston Univ. Chicago Steel Fargo Force Univ. of Denver Univ. of Michigan Univ. of North Dakota USNTDP Juniors USHL NCAA Cole Eiserman Michael Hage James Reeder Will Skahan Mac Swanson
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