Craig's List: Celebrini, Eiserman in tight race for top spot
The race for No. 1 at the 2024 NHL Draft is between a future No. 1 centre and an elite goal-scoring winger.
While TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has Boston University centre Macklin Celebrini at No. 1 on his list ahead of USNTDP winger Cole Eiserman, he believes the margin between the two players is razor-thin.
“I compare Celebrini to [Jonathan] Toews and I compare Eiserman to [Alexander] Ovechkin,” said Button. “I think they’re both game changers, difference makers in different ways.”
Celebrini, who is out until mid to late October after shoulder surgery in May, had 46 goals and 86 points in 50 United States Hockey League (USHL) games last season with the Chicago Steel. The Vancouver product took home USHL Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honours for his efforts.
Eiserman will suit up for the US National Team Development Program U-18 squad this season after notching 69 goals and 104 points in 62 games in 2022-23 as a U-17 player at the NTDP. And he has a realistic chance at breaking Cole Caufield’s career US NTDP goal record of 126.
Russian winger Ivan Demidov comes in at No. 3. He started the season in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg, beating out 2023 seventh-overall pick Matvei Michkov for the 13th forward spot. Demidov, who is signed in the KHL through the 2024-25 season, has drawn comparisons to his fellow countryman but Button believes there is even more to come with the Sergiyev Posad, Russia native.
“He very well could be better than Michkov,” said Button of Demidov. “I think he has that [Nikita] Kucherov-esque game.”
At No. 4 is Finnish centre Konsta Helenius. The 17-year-old has one goal in five SM Liiga games this season with Jukurit. Internationally last season, he had two goals and 11 points in seven games at the U17s and had six points in five games at the U18s for Finland.
“Helenius reminds me of Brayden Point,” said Button. “Give him to me any day of the week. He’s high-end skilled and he thinks at a higher level. He’s got an elite IQ level.”
Rounding out the top five is Belarussian defenceman Artyom Levshunov, who will be skating with Michigan State in the NCAA this season. Of the 14 defencemen Button has ranked in his top 32 draft-eligible prospects, Levshunov has separated himself early on.
“He’s got the offensive ability,” said Button of Levshunov. “To me right now, he’s a little bit smoother, got a little bit more offensive dynamic to him than the other guys, and that’s what separates him for me.”
Two of the defencemen in Button’s top 32 have older brothers who are also prominent NHL defensive prospects. Adam Jiricek, who is ranked sixth on Button’s list, is the younger brother of David, the sixth-overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2022 draft. The No. 20-ranked Cole Hutson, is the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens 2022 second-rounder Lane.
“I think David has more power, a bigger shot,” said Button. “[He’s] diligent, competitive. Adam is like that too. Adam is such a good player.
“When I watch Cole play, it’s hard not to see Lane. I would say Lane and Cole are very, very similar in their style of play. Cole is bigger at this age though. He’s a brilliant player, I have him ahead of [Aron] Kiviharju and I don’t even debate it. Kiviharju is a good player, but I think Hutson is a better player.”
Another player Button is intrigued to watch this season is Medicine Hat Tigers centre Cayden Lindstrom, who is No. 19 on the list.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, the 17-year-old had 19 goals and 42 points in 61 WHL games last season. Through two games to start the 2023-24 campaign, he has a goal and two assists. In August, he helped Canada capture gold at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“Big, strong, skilled, competitive, he wants to impact the game,” said Button of Lindstrom. “I think when you look at potential, he is a fascinating player to watch over the course of this year for me.”
With the new season just getting under way, the players listed below are presented with their 2022-23 statistics. Craig’s List is TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button's own projection of draft prospects, based on their NHL potential 3-5 years out.
Craig's List - September 28
|1||Macklin Celebrini||Boston (NCAA)||C||5'11 ¾||189||50||46||86|
|2||Cole Eiserman||USA NTDP (USHL)||LW||5'11 ¼||190||62||69||104|
|3||Ivan Demidov||St. Petersburg (KHL)||LW||5'11||170||41||19||62|
|4||Konsta Helenius||Jukurit (SM Liiga)||C||5'10 ¾||180||19||8||28|
|5||Artyom Levshunov||Michigan State (NCAA)||D||6'2||199||62||13||42|
|6||Adam Jiricek||Omaha (USHL)||D||6'2 ½||178||41||12||29|
|7||Anton Silayev||Nizhny Novogorod (KHL)||D||6'6||203||41||2||8|
|8||Berkly Catton||Spokane (WHL)||C||5'11||169||63||23||55|
|9||Emil Hemming||TPS (SM Liiga Jr.)||RW||6'0 ¾||201||22||7||16|
|10||Michael Brandsegg-Nygard||Mora (SWE J20)||RW||6'1||194||35||17||38|
|11||Trevor Connelly||Tri-City (USHL)||LW||6'0 ¾||156||57||24||47|
|12||Zayne Parekh||Saginaw (OHL)||D||6'0||172||50||21||37|
|13||EJ Emery||USA NTDP (USHL)||D||6'3||185||60||2||12|
|14||Sam Dickinson||London (OHL)||D||6'2 ¾||201||62||9||23|
|15||Veeti Vaisanen||KooKoo (SM Liiga)||D||6'0||177||37||3||22|
|16||Igor Chernyshov||Moscow (MHL)||LW||6'2||192||38||18||38|
|17||Will Skahan||USA NTDP (USHL)||D||6'4||211||60||1||11|
|18||Ryder Ritchie||Prince Albert (WHL)||C/RW||6'0||173||61||20||55|
|19||Cayden Lindstrom||Medicine Hat (WHL)||C||6'3||211||61||19||42|
|20||Cole Hutson||USA NTDP (USHL)||D||5'9 ¾||158||61||10||68|
|21||Aron Kiviharju||HIFK (SM Liiga)||D||5'9 ¼||170||22||2||20|
|22||Zeev Buium||Denver (NCAA)||D||5'11 ¼||177||63||5||40|
|23||Henry Mews||Ottawa (OHL)||D||6'0||181||55||12||31|
|24||Maxim Masse||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)||RW||6'1||185||65||29||62|
|25||Michael Hage||Chicago (USHL)||C/RW||6'0 ½||190||13||5||10|
|26||Carter Yakemchuk||Calgary (WHL)||D||6'1 ¾||188||67||19||47|
|27||Liam Greentree||Windsor (OHL)||RW||6'2||215||61||25||45|
|28||Carson Wetsch||Calgary (WHL)||RW||6'0||185||45||10||21|
|29||Niilopekka Muhonen||Kalpa (SM Liiga Jr.)||D||6'4 ¼||195||18||1||6|
|30||Beckett Sennecke||Oshawa (OHL)||RW||6'0 ¼||164||61||20||55|
|31||Julius Miettinen||Everett (WHL)||C||6'2 ¼||203||38||10||22|
|32||Sacha Boisvert||Muskegon (USHL)||C||6'2||165||57||17||45|