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Jun 27, 2024 1:59 pm

Macklin Celebrini likely first, intrigue next at 2024 NHL Draft

Macklin Celebrini

Depending on which team executive is speaking, the 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas really doesn’t begin until the second overall pick, or maybe even the fourth.

That’s how bunched the talent pool gets after the first pick, which likely will be Boston University center Macklin Celebrini getting selected by the San Jose Sharks.

“Even though the players are quite distinct from each other, the values are very similar,” Anaheim Ducks assistant general manager Martin Madden said of the players behind Celebrini. “It’s going to be an interesting first round.”

Celebrini, a Vancouver native, is said to possess the type of skill, instinct and determination that easily could have made him the No. 2 overall pick last year behind Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard.

“He’s a driven kid. He’s an alpha, kind of everything you expect and have experienced from other No. 1 picks,” Sharks general manager Mike Grier said of Celebrini. “He has all that stuff (plus) the belief in himself and the will and the want to get better and work on his craft. He’s an impressive kid.”

The Blackhawks have the second overall pick and could continue to bolster their forward lines by selecting SKA St. Petersburg Jr. right wing Ivan Demidov or Medicine Hat power forward Cayden Lindstrom, or they could opt for a potential game changer on defense.

There’s plenty of those, beginning with 18-year-old Artyom Levshunov from Belarus, a freshman at Michigan State last season and the third-youngest player in college hockey.

Anton Silayev is a shutdown defenseman who stands 6-foot-7 and is still growing. He played in the top Russian professional league with Nizhny Novgorod as a 17-year-old last season.

London’s Sam Dickinson, Denver’s Zeev Buium and Saginaw’s Zayne Parekh are all two-way defensemen that also have a chance to move into the top five.

Dickinson, 18, also possesses a large frame and loads of confidence, recently declaring himself the best defensemen in the draft.

Buium led all NCAA blueliners with 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 42 games last season. Parekh led all OHL defensemen in goals (33) and points (96) over 66 games last season.

“At this point, there’s not much left to do or to hear,” Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said. “I think we’ve got everything that we can get in terms of information in the bank.”

The Ducks will pick third after drafting center Leo Carlsson second overall last season.

They also drafted center Mason McTavish third overall in 2021, center Trevor Zegras ninth in 2019 and last season traded for right wing Cutter Gauthier, the fifth overall pick in 2022 by the Philadelphia Flyers.

That young front-line depth might tempt the front office to look for a defenseman. Madden believes this draft is one of the best for blueliners in the past 10 years, but Anaheim doesn’t plan to draft based on need.

“We went in that direction twice in the last 10 years and it didn’t work out for us,” he said. “Those picks were forced and, five years later, I’m not even sure it would have addressed the need we have at this time. So, we’re going to go with the old boring way and say that we’re going to go with the best player available, according to our opinion and our projection.”

The Columbus Blue Jackets could have a tough decision at No. 4. They feel like they’re not far away from being a regular playoff team and may look for a player who can contribute immediately.

That could eliminate Demidov and Silayev, who are expected to remain in Russia for at least another season.

New Blue Jackets general manager Don Waddell told reporters that the team also is open to trading its first-round pick if it would improve the roster for next season.

The Montreal Canadiens are set to draft fifth. General manager Kent Hughes made it clear to reporters after the Draft Lottery that they’re looking for a forward, unless they get a trade offer they can’t refuse.

Demidov or Lindstrom likely will still be available, and each seems to provide exactly what Montreal wants to add to its organization.

The Utah Hockey Club has the sixth pick in its inaugural draft and general manager Bill Armstrong said he expects to select “an impact player at some point in their career,” but not necessarily next season.

The Ottawa Senators, Seattle Kraken, Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils round out the top 10.

Madden said the top third of the first round is so even, players who will get drafted ninth or 10th overall could easily go second through fifth, and vice versa.

“It’s not about what they look like today, it’s what they’re going to look like five years from now and the impact they’re going to have,” Madden said. “That is a challenge.”

–Field Level Media

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