Skip to main content

Celebrini the unanimous No. 1 prospect in McKenzie's mid-season draft ranking


So much for suspense.

Macklin Celebrini is all but 100 per cent certain to be the first-overall pick in the 2024 NHL draft.

Ten out of 10 NHL team scouts surveyed by TSN have the 17-year-old Boston University freshman centre at No. 1. Almost all of them can’t see anyone other than Celebrini going first overall on June 28 at The Sphere in Las Vegas (which, incidentally, is the final convention-style NHL draft gathering).

“When you look at how well he has played in the NCAA (16 goals and 32 points in 19 games) and the World Junior Championship, and he’s the youngest player in college hockey, and then you realize he should still be a high school senior who doesn’t turn 18 until (June 13), well, it’s pretty wild what he’s done and what he’s doing,” one scout said. “He’ll be the guy; I can’t see anyone [eclipsing him for top spot].”

That is certainly the prevailing opinion, but it’s worth noting one scout who was surveyed by TSN suggested it’s close to a 50-50 toss-up between the No. 1 ranked Celebrini and No. 2 on the TSN Mid-Season list, towering 6-foot-7, 211-pound Russian defenceman Anton Silayev.

“I do think it’s close enough [to at least ponder the question],” the scout said. “If the team that wins the [draft] lottery is already loaded with young talent at forward, and really needs a building block on defence, could I see that team having to make a decision? I think I could.”

No. 3 on TSN’s Mid-Season list is another blue-chip defenceman — Michigan State’s Artyom Levshunov, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound Belarusian who is the third youngest player in college hockey. He has some eye-popping NCAA stats of his own (seven goals and 26 points in 24 games) for an 18-year-old freshman who projects as a top-pair NHL blueliner.

“He’s very, very good,” another scout said of Levshunov. “With all the focus on Celebrini and the emergence of the big Russian D [Silayev], Levshunov maybe isn’t getting as much attention as he deserves. If you’re picking in the top three or four this year and need a big top-pair defencemen, you’re laughing.”

Nevertheless, Celebrini’s mid-season No. 1 status would seem to be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge in June.

It’s one thing to note Silayev’s physical stature, outstanding mobility, ability to impact the game at both ends of the ice and sky-high potential. But as one scout duly noted: “I’d be hard pressed to find an NHL GM who would ever take a Russian defenceman who [the GM] has only ever seen on video over a Canadian kid who most everyone believes is the top guy and who’s going to be a No. 1 NHL centre.”

Celebrini’s mid-season No. 1 status has also been further cemented by a drop off in expected performance so far this season by the one North American player who last September was deemed to be Celebrini’s most direct threat.

U.S. National Development Team Program goal-scoring whiz Cole Eiserman, No. 2 on TSN’s Pre-Season Draft Rankings, has fallen to No. 4. But slipping two spots in the overall rankings doesn’t fully illustrate, relatively speaking, the precipitous decline the American forward has experienced in the eyes of some scouts.

In September, one scout ranked Eiserman ahead of Celebrini at No. 1; five others had him at No. 2 and four more at No. 3. In the mid-season survey, conducted during the week of Jan. 15, Eiserman received only two second-place votes; three third-place votes; two seventh-place votes and one each for Nos. 5, 6 and 9. He’s still a top prospect but trending in the wrong direction, though there’s still plenty of time to reverse it.

A teammate of Celebrini’s at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school, Eiserman’s more immediate challenge may be nailing down a spot in the top five rather than knocking Celebrini from the presumed No. 1 pedestal.

So that raises the question: What exactly are we looking at in terms of Celebrini, the North Vancouver product?

Potential star? Superstar? Franchise player? Generational talent?

Well, before attempting to answer that, one needs some context on these terms that get thrown around so liberally these days.

Generational, for instance. No one would argue that Connor McDavid, No. 1 overall in 2015, was at the time of his draft and now in terms of his current day stature is a generational talent. But one may well be inclined to say the same thing about 2023 first-overall pick Connor Bedard.

Can you have two generational players separated by only eight years, when the dictionary definition of “generation” is a 15- to 20-year span?

Apparently, you can.

Actually, going down the “generational” rabbit hole can be fraught with peril, an exercise in complexity.

No one would dispute Sidney Crosby’s status as a generational player – not in his 2005 draft year and not now either. But as promising as 2004 No. 1 overall Alexander Ovechkin was 20 years ago, I don’t recall anyone at that time suggesting Ovie was “generational.” But now that he has become the greatest goal scorer of his generation, and still has a chance to be the most prolific scorer ever in NHL history, he has transcended “generational.”

When Cale Makar was drafted fourth overall behind Nico Hischier, Nolan Patrick, and Miro Heiskanen in 2017, he wasn’t even considered the best player available that year, but now or in the future? Is Makar generational? Discuss amongst yourselves, but whatever he is, it’s something special.

What about Nate MacKinnon? Auston Matthews? Where does generational end and “franchise” player begin? Do you only ask the question during a player’s draft year? Or can it be applied after the fact?  What about the delineation between a franchise player and a mere superstar? It’s all so subjective to begin with, you can really get into the weeds on it.

Nevertheless, we asked some scouts about where on the spectrum of generational-franchise-superstar they see Celebrini.

The consensus seems to be that Celebrini is not considered generational — certainly not McDavid and maybe not Bedard either — but there are equal amounts of support for him being a franchise player or being at the superstar level.

“He’s a franchise player,” one scout said definitely. “He will be a game changer for the franchise that gets him.”

“He’ll be very good, he’ll consistently put up great numbers, but I don’t know if he will carry a franchise,” said another scout.

“If Auston Matthews is a franchise player and Mitch Marner and William Nylander are superstars, I would project Celebrini closer to Marner and Nylander than Matthews,” said another scout.

“I’d be careful about underestimating [Celebrini],” said another. “He’s driven and he’s talented and he’s going to be impactful no matter what label you put on him.”

Comparables aren’t necessarily fair — Celebrini is his own unique talent and will forge his own identity — but there’s no denying some similarities in terms of his style of play and/or approach.

“For a player with his level of talent, he works so hard at all aspects of his game, so he’s similar to Sidney [Crosby] in that regard,” a scout said. “He is not Crosby, but he plays a similar, well-rounded game at a very high level.”

Crosby is already well familiar with Celebrini. They train and skate together at times in the off-season.

“I don’t think he’ll be as dynamic or powerful as Sid, but I absolutely can see him as a lower-case Crosby,” added another.

Some scouts also like to draw some parallels to Jonathan Toews. Like Celebrini, Toews went to Shattuck and fast-tracked through high school to get to the University of North Dakota in his NHL draft year. And while Celebrini’s 6-foot, 190-pound frame isn’t quite as big as Toews 6-foot-1, 195-pound numbers in 2006, their relentless drive, attention to detail, strong 200-foot game and flair for the dramatic in big moments are inarguably similar.

Also worth noting, Toews went back to UND for his sophomore season after being drafted third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006.

Is it conceivable that as talented as Celebrini is, he might return to BU next season rather than play in the NHL immediately?

If so, he wouldn’t be the first player picked No. 1 to choose university over the NHL in his first year of pro eligibility.

Erik Johnson was selected first by St. Louis from the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2006 – the Toews draft – but opted for the University of Minnesota in 2006-07.

Some 15 years later, Owen Power was selected first by Buffalo from the University of Michigan in 2021, but returned to U of M for the 2021-22 season.

Celebrini has plenty of time to decide on his path, but his dad, Rick, is the highly acclaimed director of sports medicine and performance for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. Suffice to say Dr. Rick knows a thing or two about high-end athletic development and how best to maximize it for his prodigiously talented son.

As for the rest of the prospects in the 2024 draft, the scouts are really warming up to this class.

It’s a boon to any team looking for high-end blueliners after a down year in 2023.

Two defencemen — David Reinbacher to Montreal at No. 5 and Dmitriy Simashev to Arizona at No. 6 — were taken in the top 10 last year and only four went in the top 20.

In our mid-season rankings, two of the top three prospects are defencemen, four in the top 10, and seven in the top 14. No guarantee it shakes out exactly like that, but it’s notable each of the seven in the top 14 is 6 feet or taller.

The biggest, of course, is No. 2-ranked Silayev.

Putting aside the Russian factor and how soon or far of  he is to being available for NHL teams— he’s a striking package of size, strength, mobility, offence and defence.

“He’s not as offensively gifted as, say, Chris Pronger at the same age and he’s not as physically intimidating and punishing as, say, Zdeno Chara was in his draft year [1996],” one scout said. “But he has shown that he combines elements of both of those guys.”

Another scout said: “If he’s as good as we think he is — geez, I really wish we could be there in the rink to see him live instead of just on video or getting reports from our Russian scouts — he’s going to be a No. 1 defenceman, maybe in the same sort of universe as a Victor Hedman. If he’s not quite what we think he is, with that size and mobility, I still think he’ll be really good top-pairing guy or outstanding 2-3.”

Silayev’s production in the KHL this season has tailed off after he scored one goal and six points in his first six games. He has scored another two goals and five points in his past 45 games. But he’s still playing significant minutes against older KHL competition and continues to demonstrate great mobility and solid puck skills for such a big man.

Five of 10 scouts surveyed by TSN listed Silayev at No. 2 and the lowest ranking he received was a No. 6.

The No. 3 ranked Levshunov, unlike the 2006-born Celebrini and Silayev, is a late 2005 birthdate. His physical maturity, strength and strong skating give him the tools to project as a high-end two-way defenceman. Scouts still aren’t sure what his offensive ceiling will be in the NHL, but he has put up some noteworthy numbers in each of the past two seasons.

He had 13 goals and 42 points with the USHL’s Green Bay in 2022-23. His seven goals and 26 points at Michigan State this season are gaudy totals for an 18-year-old freshman.

“I don’t think he’ll be a high-end, big numbers offensive defenceman in the NHL but he’s such a good skater and puck mover he will still contribute offensively,” one scout said. “I could see him being on a No. 2 power play, but he’ll be on the No. 1 penalty-killing unit and log big minutes in all situations. He’s strong, he can defend. He has a really good two-way game.”

Rankings for Levshunov among the 10 scouts surveyed ranged from No. 3 to No. 6.

The No. 4-ranked Eiserman represents a fascinating storyline. As mentioned previously, his stock is trending down, but his goal scoring isn’t.

He scored a pair of goals Saturday night, giving him 34 in 31 games for the U.S. U-18 squad. He has 103 career goals in the U.S. National Development Team Program, which leaves him one shy of Phil Kessel’s career output and 23 from Cole Caufield’s USNDTP-record 126.

So what gives with his stock falling?

“He has not developed any kind of backup game to his scoring,” one scout said. “He’s so one dimensional, so interested in just getting his goals that it’s sometimes a detriment to his play. You would like to see him play with more pace, be more competitive, because the goals may not be as plentiful at the next level.”

But he quite likely owns the best shot in the draft and from the blueline in there’s no one more dangerous.

“If you’re going to be a one-trick pony, scoring goals is the best trick to have,” another scout said. “He’s better than a goal-a-game player, which is incredible. But we certainly expected more from him in terms of his play this season and we haven’t seen it yet.”

Eiserman is committed to Boston University next season.

TSN’s fifth-ranked prospect is Medicine Hat Tiger centre Cayden Lindstrom, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound hard-driving centre who is rocketing up the draft chart. Lindstrom was an honourable mention in TSN’s pre-season Top 16 and is now the second-ranked centre and Canadian behind only Celebrini.


ContentId(1.2066056): Lindstrom dishes on his NHL comparison, updates recovery from hand surgery

Lindstrom was a third-round pick in the WHL bantam draft and put up some nice rookie numbers last season — 19 goals and 42 points in 61 games. But he has blossomed this year. It’s not just his 27 goals and 66 penalty minutes in 32 games; it’s his size, strength and ability to, at times, physically overwhelm opponents that scouts have noticed

“He’s something of a unicorn in this draft,” one scout said. “A big, strong physical centre with skills and vision who’s putting up great numbers and demonstrating he maybe has the potential to be a big No. 1 NHL centre. If he’s not prolific enough to be a No. 1 C, he’s going to be a helluva No. 2.”

Scouts surveyed ranked him as high as No. 3 and no lower than No. 8.

The rest of TSN’s Mid-Season Top 10 is as follows:

6. Ivan Demidov. The Russian left-shot winger is as smart, skilled and offensively gifted as any player in the draft. Two of the 10 scouts surveyed ranked him at No. 2, behind Celebrini, and he was top five in the eyes of another five scouts.

Demidov is quite likely the only high-end Russian prospect in this draft class who has been seen in a live viewing by North America-based scouts and GMs, though it happened in the summer of 2022. Demidov, a late 2005 birthdate, was playing as an underage in the 2022 Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament. Russians in this draft class have not been seen live by most scouts since then because of IIHF sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.

The dynamic winger was No. 3 on our pre-season list, but Demidov missed the better part of two months (October and November) with a knee injury.

7. Sam Dickinson. The London Knights’ 6-foot-3, 204-pound defenceman has size, mobility and skill — witness 13 goals and 42 points in 43 games this season. Scouts say he projects as a top-four, two-way blueliner who can contribute in all three zones.

“He has enough tools, offensively and defensively, to give himself a chance to be a top- pair guy in the NHL,” said a scout, who added that Dickinson was a disappointment at the Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament last summer but has impressed all season long in the OHL.

In our scouting survey, three scouts ranked him in their top five, including one who slotted him at No. 3, but two others had him outside their top 10s.

8. Konsta Helenius. Seven of 10 scouts had the 5-foot-11 Finnish centre in their top 10 though none put him in their top five. He plays a strong two-way, 200-foot game, flashing equal amounts of playmaking and goal scoring. He has put up eight goals and 22 points in 32 games against men in the Finnish Elite League.

9. Zayne Parekh. The 6-foot Saginaw Spirit blueliner is the most dynamic offensive defenceman in the entire draft class. He has 22 goals and 64 points in 42 games and has a chance to hit the century mark in points.


ContentId(1.2066059): Parekh makes a jump as 6-10 rankings feature a variety of skilled players

He’s viewed mostly as a one-dimensional offensive dynamo, but some scouts don’t see any reason why a modicum of defensive play can’t be learned over time. In the meantime, he’s an elite skater, shooter and puck mover.

10. Berkly Catton. The Spokane Chiefs’ sub 6-foot centre shares a lot of the same traits as Helenius. That is, he is a committed, competitive and savvy two-way pivot. Catton has 28 goals and 67 points in 41 games this season. The first overall pick in the WHL draft two years ago was Canada’s best player at the Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 tournament last summer, with eight goals and 10 points in five games.


McKenzie's Draft Ranking - January 22

RK Player Team Pos HT WT GP G P
1 Macklin Celebrini  Boston U (NCAA) C 6'0 190 19 16 32
2 Anton Silayev Nizhny Novgorod (KHL) D 6'7 211 52 3 11
3 Artyom Levshunov Michigan State (NCAA) D 6'2 208 24 7 26
4 Cole Eiserman USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'11 ¾ 197 31 34 55
5 Cayden Lindstrom Medicine Hat (WHL) C 6'3 210 32 27 46
6 Ivan Demidov St. Petersburg (MHL) LW 5'11 181 22 15 39
7 Sam Dickinson London (OHL) D 6'2 ¾ 201 43 13 42
8 Konsta Helenius Jukurit (SM Liiga) C 5'10 ¾ 180 32 8 22
9 Zayne Parekh Saginaw (OHL) D 6'0 172 42 22 64
10 Berkly Catton Spokane (WHL) C 5'11 169 41 28 67
11 Trevor Connelly Tri-City (USHL) LW 6'0 ¾ 156 28 12 39
12 Carter Yakemchuk Calgary (WHL) D 6'1 ¾ 188 40 18 42
13 Zeev Buium Denver (NCAA) D 6'0 183 22 6 32
14 Adam Jiricek HC Plzeň  (Cze) D 6'2 ½ 178 19 0 1
15 Emil Hemming TPS (SM Liiga) RW 6'0 ¾ 201 28 6 8
16 Tij Iginla Kelowna (WHL) LW 5'11 ¾ 186 40 31 55
17 Liam Greentree Windsor (OHL) RW 6'2 215 39 24 57
18 Igor Chernyshov Moscow (MHL) LW 6'2 192 18 10 24
19 Beckett Sennecke Oshawa (OHL) RW 6'2 ¼ 175 39 15 38
20 Michael Brandsegg-Nygård Mora (SWE J20) RW 6'1 194 28 6 12
21 Ryder Ritchie Prince Albert (WHL) C/RW 6'0 173 34 13 31
22 Sacha Boisvert Muskegon (USHL) C 6'2 165 34 19 35
23 Aron Kiviharju HIFK  (SM Liiga) D 5'9 ¼ 170 7 1 2
24 Andrew Basha Medicine Hat (WHL) LW 5'11 ¼ 184 40 19 59
25 Tanner Howe Regina (WHL) LW 5'9 ¾ 182 44 22 52
26 Jett Luchanko Guelph (OHL) C 5'10 165 43 14 48
27 Terik Parascak Prince George (WHL) RW 5'11 ½ 176 44 27 63
28 Charlie Elick Brandon (WHL) D 6'3 ¼ 200 42 4 20
29 Matvei Gridin Muskegon (USHL) LW 6'1 185 34 18 41
30 Cole Beaudoin Barrie (OHL) C 6'1 ¾ 209 39 19 35
31 Lucas Pettersson Modo (SWE J20) C 5'11 168 32 16 33
32 Dean Letourneau St. Andrew's (PHC) C 6'6 209 35 40 79
33 Jesse Pulkkinen JYP (SM Liiga Jr.) D 6'6 203 18 11 28
34 Nikita Artamonov Nizhny Novgorod (KHL) LW 5'11 187 41 5 18
35 Maxim Massé Chicoutimi (QMJHL) RW 6'1 ¾ 192 45 21 43
36 Michael Hage Chicago (USHL) C/RW 6'0 ½ 190 30 14 34
37 Henry Mews Ottawa (OHL) D 6'0 181 38 6 35
38 Leo Sahlin Wallenius Vaxjo Jr. (SWE J20) D 5'11 ½ 176 32 6 28
39 EJ Emery USA NTDP (USHL) D 6'3 185 35 0 9
40 Matvei Shuravin Moskva (MHL) D 6'3 195 20 0 7
41 Cole Hutson USA NTDP (USHL) D 5'9 ¾ 158 35 9 29
42 Dominik Badinka Malmo (SHL) D 6'3 183 15 2 12
43 Egor Surin Yaroslavl (MHL) C/RW 6'1 192 36 19 46
44 Will Skahan USA NTDP (USHL) D 6'4 211 34 2 7
45 Stian Solberg Oslo (NOR) D 6'2 194 30 3 11
46 Sam O'Reilly London (OHL) RW 6'1 186 43 14 42
47 Marek Vanacker Brantford (OHL) LW 6'0 165 42 22 46
48 Adam Jecho Edmonton (WHL) RW 6'4 ¾ 201 29 11 26
49 Leon Muggli ZUG (SUI) D 5'11 ¾ 165 29 2 9
50 Alfons Freij Vaxjo (SWE J20) D 6'0 ½ 187 31 10 24
51 Ben Danford Oshawa (OHL) D 6'1 194 42 1 24
52 Tomas Lavoie Cape Breton (QMJHL) D 6'3 ½ 220 44 3 18
53 Tomas Galvas Liberec (Cze) D 5'10 ¾ 148 22 1 5
54 Kamil Bednarik USA NTDP (USHL) C 6'0 186 35 16 39
55 Gabriel Eliasson HV71 (SWE J20) D 6'6 203 25 0 2
56 Sebastian Soini KOOVEE (FIN) D 6'2 181 22 0 4
57 Luca Marrelli Oshawa (OHL) D 6'1 ¼ 185 42 2 34
58 Spencer Gill Rimouski (QMJHL) D 6'3 ¾ 185 42 6 26
59 Julius Miettinen Everett (WHL) C 6'2 ¾ 205 45 20 42
60 Aatos Koivu TPS (SM Liiga Jr.) C 6'0 165 19 15 26
61 Miguel Marques Lethbridge (WHL) RW 5'11 172 43 19 51
62 Kasper Pikkarainen TPS (SM Liiga Jr.) RW 6'3 194 30 10 25
63 Lukas Fischer Sarnia (OHL) D 6'4 181 44 4 20
64 John Mustard Waterloo (USHL) C 6'0 185 31 16 31
65 Linus Eriksson Djurgardens (SWE J20) C 5'11 183 24 5 21
66 Ondrej Kos KOOVEE (FIN) LW 6'2 167 14 3 5
67 Luke Misa Mississauga (OHL) C 5'10 175 43 18 57
68 Teddy Stiga USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'10 176 35 19 37
69 Eemil Vinni JoKP (SM Liiga Jr.) G 6'2 185 23 2.68 .896
70 Carter George Owen Sound (OHL) G 6'0 161 35 3.04 .914
71 Nathan Villeneuve Sudbury (OHL) C 6'0 183 39 11 31
72 Ryerson Leenders Mississauga (OHL) G 6'1 179 33 3.06 .913
73 Veeti Vaisanen KooKoo (SM Liiga) D 6'0 177 32 2 8
74 Raoul Boilard Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) C 6'1 ¼ 184 45 18 44
75 Carson Wetsch Calgary (WHL) RW 6'0 ¼ 187 41 14 32
76 Simon Zether Rogle (SWE J20) RW/C 6'2 185 17 11 27
77 Christian Humphreys USA NTDP (USHL) C 5'10 ¾ 170 35 15 40
78 Nicholas Kempf USA NTDP (USHL) G 6'2 190 19 3.03 .905
79 Kim Saarinen HPK (SM Liiga Jr.) G 6'4 181 19 2.33 .919
80 Caleb Heil Sious Falls (USHL) G 6'2 185 15 3.89 .862
HM Matvey Babenko Ufa (MHL) RW 6'3 201 16 3 10
HM Jack Berglund Farjestad (SHL) LW 6'3 207 34 13 29
HM Hagen Burrows Minnetonka (USHS) RW 6'2 165 17 9 29
HM Maxmilian Curran Tri-City (WHL) C 6'3 190 40 5 32
HM Melvin Fernstrom Orebro (SWE J20) RW 6'1 185 34 23 44
HM Gabriel Frasca Kingston (OHL) C 6'0 170 18 9 15
HM Ollie Josephson Red Deer (WHL) C 6'0 181 43 6 32
HM Adam Kleber Lincoln (USHL) D 6'5 203 28 4 16
HM Eriks Mateiko Saint John (QMJHL) LW 6'4 201 33 16 31
HM Javon Moore Minnetonka (USHS) LW 6'2 181 17 15 30
HM Jonathan Morello St. Michaels (OJHL) C 6'3 192 35 17 38
HM Niilopekka Muhonen Kalpa (SM Liiga Jr.) D 6'4 ¼ 195 25 4 10
HM Max Plante USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'10 ¼ 170 25 8 29
HM Jack Pridham West Kelowna (BCHL) RW 6'1 174 34 13 31
HM Colton Roberts Vancouver (WHL) D 6'4 198 43 7 20
HM Karl Sterner Frolunda (SWE J20) RW 6'3 187 35 12 27
HM Herman Traff HV71 (SHL) RW 6'3 203 22 11 18
HM Daniil Ustinkov ZSC (SUI) D 6'0 198 18 0 1
HM Lucas Van Vliet USA NTDP (USHL) C 6'1 ¼ 181 33 11 18
HM Brodie Ziemer USA NTDP (USHL) RW 5'10 ½ 192 35 13 32