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McKenzie's Final Draft Ranking: Many attractive and diverse options after Celebrini


When it comes to the 2024 NHL Draft, it’s quite possible we have, to borrow an old newspaper saying, buried the lede.

Which is to say there’s been so much talk about two Russians forcing their way into the conversation in the upper echelon of the draft, and/or how there are at least six blue-chip blueliners with NHL top-pair potential available in the Top 10, that we’ve glossed over the No. 1 storyline.

That is, this is the Macklin Celebrini Draft.

It was the Macklin Celebrini Draft to start the season; it’s the Macklin Celebrini Draft to finish it, and there was never a single moment when it was anything other than the Macklin Celebrini Draft.

Of course, on that basis you could argue that it’s old news; just stating the obvious.

Fair enough.

There is undoubtedly more intrigue, excitement, debate and food for thought to discuss the Russian presence at the top end of the draft and the lavish smorgasbord of high-end defencemen, but before we get to that, it doesn’t feel right to not give Celebrini his due.

So, let us quickly celebrate the Boston University freshman centre’s stellar season that will result in the Vancouver native being chosen first overall by the San Jose Sharks on Friday at Sphere in Las Vegas.

“To start the season, I thought he was going to be very good, but I was wrong, he’s going to be great,” said one of the 10 NHL club team scouts surveyed by TSN who unanimously cited Celebrini as No. 1. “I can’t say enough about what’s he’s done this season and what he’s going to do in the NHL.”

“He’s an elite prospect; he’s a special player. San Jose is incredibly lucky to get a No. 1 centre of that calibre,” said another scout.

We all spent time this season trying to figure out what exactly Celebrini is going to be in the NHL, but often times we seemed preoccupied on what he perhaps wasn’t.

To wit:

We said he’s not Sidney Crosby, and he’s not, but Celebrini’s style of play bears many similarities.

“When he has the puck on his stick he’s the best and most dangerous player on the ice,” said another scout. “He’s smart, he’s creative, he’s a passer, he’s a shooter, he can do it all. When he doesn’t have the puck, he’s the hardest worker on the ice to get it back. He’s complete; he’s elite.”


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We said he’s not Connor Bedard, and he’s not, but he’s still viewed as special.

“I will tell you this,” another scout said, “he’s more of a natural centre than Bedard is. He’s a more complete player [than Bedard]. Bedard’s high-end skill is really something, but so is Celebrini’s all-around game.”

“If Celebrini had been eligible for last year’s draft,” another scout said, “I believe he would have gone No. 2 overall [ahead of Leo Carlsson, Adam Fantilli and Will Smith]. He’s that good.”

In some respects, with Celebrini being the foregone conclusion at No. 1 and so many attractive and diverse options on the board after that, the 2024 NHL Draft begins in earnest at No. 2 with Chicago.

Many pundits believe the Blackhawks, who took Bedard first overall a year ago, may be predisposed to take a foundational defenceman at second overall. Others allow for the possibility of Chicago taking another elite forward.

For the purposes of TSN’s Final 2024 Draft Rankings, it matters not what the Blackhawks’ preference is. Or for that matter what Anaheim at No. 3, Columbus at No. 4, or Montreal at No. 5 might be inclined to do.

TSN’s draft list is a consensus ranking based on a survey of 10 NHL club team scouts. It is not a mock draft. No effort is made to match prospects with teams. It is simply an objective numerical exercise conducted in a vacuum based on where TSN’s panel of scouts rank the prospects.

This year’s rankings, from No. 2 on, would appear to be much more challenging than usual to assemble because of two factors.

First, there seem to be many more divergent opinions and variance on even the top 10 picks in the draft this year than we are used to seeing.

Second, two of the top five picks on TSN’s final list this year are Russians — left-shot right winger Ivan Demidov at No. 2 and towering 6-foot-7 defenceman Anton Silayev at No. 4.

There is the so-called “Russian Factor” to consider. More on that in a moment.

In the case of Demidov, he is, in the eyes of our scouting panel, the clear consensus No. 2 choice behind Celebrini. Six of the 10 scouts surveyed had him at No. 2. All 10 had him in their top five. No other prospect in the draft, save Celebrini, had Top 5 unanimity.

Not No. 3 ranked Artyom Levshunov, the Belarussian freshman defenceman from Michigan State University, who was close (three votes at No. 2 and eight of 10 votes in the Top 5), or No. 4 ranked Silayev or No. 5 ranked Medicine Hat Tiger centre Cayden Lindstrom (each of whom had seven of 10 votes in the Top 5).

It is, however, one thing for a scout to rank Demidov at No. 2 overall; it’s quite another for an NHL general manager to make the decision to actually take him there.

“I have no problem personally ranking Demidov at No. 2,” said a scout, “but I couldn’t assure you my team would take him there if we were picking second overall. There’s a lot more that goes into it now, especially that high.”

No NHL GM, or North American-based executives/scouts, have had live viewings of Demidov this season, who played for SKA’s junior team in the Russian MHL.

Because of the various sanctions against Russia due to its attack of Ukraine, the best young Russian players have not been able to play against their international peers in International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) events such as the World Junior Championship, Hlinka Gretzky Cup and U-18 World Championship.

Interestingly enough, Demidov is the only Russian prospect in this draft who has been live, or in-arena, scouted by NHL GMs and/or North American-based scouts.

Demidov, a late 2005 birthdate, was a double underager on Russia’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup team in the summer of 2021. He had two goals and five points in five games that year. He did not make the Russian team that played in the 2021 U18 World Championships in Texas when a couple of kids named Bedard and (Matvei) Michkov went head to head.

Having to scout Russians almost exclusively from video doesn’t preclude them from being taken high in the draft — Arizona took defenceman Dmitri Simashev sixth overall last year and Philadelphia chose forward Matvei Michkov eighth overall — but it does give pause to consider, especially depending on the viability of other top prospects.

“If you’re going to take a Russian in the top five picks, your owner has to be on board,” one scout said. “It’s not just a hockey decision. Your GM has to have an idea of how soon that [Russian] player will or won’t be coming to North America. It’s not insurmountable, but there are added layers to taking a Russian really high in the draft.”

Another scout, however, believes the Russian Factor is overplayed.

“The good ones always come over,” the scout said. “Maybe you have to wait a year or two or three, but history tells us the good ones come and they’re often worth the wait.”

And sometimes the wait isn’t as long as anticipated. Look no further than the news Tuesday that Michkov is leaving SKA to sign with the Flyers only one year after being drafted when the initial expectation was it would be a three-year wait.

NHL teams welcomed the opportunity to see Demidov in the flesh last week in Florida at a camp run by agent Dan Milstein. Demidov didn’t go on the ice — he’s recovering from a minor injury — but teams were able to meet and interview him. NHL Central Scouting was there to measure him, and others. He checked in at 6 feet, 1/2 inch and 192 pounds – an inch or more taller than he was previously listed at.

NHL teams who made the trek to Milstein’s camp were told Demidov is contractually obligated to play next season in Russia, but he could come to the NHL as early as the fall of 2025.

“It was good to meet the player, talk to him, get a better idea of who he is and a sense of when he might come over,” said one scout. “My takeaway was that he very much wants to be an NHL player and there are no big issues on that front.”

If that’s the case, then the scouts can focus on more traditional prospect evaluations.

Demidov has elite passing and goal-scoring skills. His hockey sense and competitiveness are viewed as outstanding. Some scouts say his skating is only average. Whatever size concerns that existed when he was believed to be under 6-feet tall no longer apply.

“If he isn’t a No. 1 offensive winger in the NHL, he’ll be a No. 2,” said a scout. “He’s not an elite skater, like Kirill Kaprizov, but he has elite skills and competitiveness.”

But some scouts question the competition he played against in the MHL, suggesting his productivity was inflated because of it.

“Sure, we would have preferred to see him in the KHL or VHL, but if he was there playing only a few minutes a game we would be complaining about that,” said a scout, laughing.

Given all of the above, seeing which team, and at which point in the draft he’s chosen, is going to be one of the most intriguing storylines of draft day.

If Demidov has to contend with the spectre of the Russian Factor, his countryman Silayev, TSN’s fourth-ranked prospect, has to deal with that, plus another big one — the plethora of high-end defencemen available in this draft.

And depending upon the scout you talk to, there’s an incredibly varied view of how the blueliners should be ordered.

Levshunov is certainly the consensus top defenceman. He was the only prospect other than Demidov to get more than one second-place vote. Demidov had six; Levshunov had three; Silayev had one. Eight of 10 scouts had Levshunov in the top five; the two who had him outside the top five ranked him six and seven.

And yet, for all that, six of the 10 scouts did not have Levshunov as the No. 1 defenceman on their list. Four did, the same number that had Silayev as the top blueliner. Two more identified Saginaw Spirit offensive dynamo Zayne Parekh as their No. 1.


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But each scout’s individual ranking of the defencemen was all over the map. So here’s how the TSN numbers shook out for the top blueliners:

Levshunov and Silayev are Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, followed by the WHL forward Lindstrom at No. 5.

No. 6 is 6-foot-3, 203-pound London Knight defenceman Sam Dickinson. A marvelous skater and puck mover, Dickinson was ranked as high as No. 5 and as low as No. 16, but eight of 10 scouts had him in their Top 10.

No. 7 is Denver University’s Zeev Buium. The highly skilled 6-foot, 186-pound Pioneer rearguard was ranked as high as No. 6 and no lower than No. 11, with nine of 10 scouts slotting him in their Top 10.

No. 8 is Parekh, the Spirit’s dynamic offensive defenceman who was ranked as high as No. 3 and as low as No. 13, with seven of 10 scouts placing him in their Top 10; two of them putting him in their Top 5.

By the time you distill all those numbers, the differences between the trio of Dickinson, Buium and Parekh are minimal. Levshunov and Silayev appear to be in a consensus tier just above the other three, but there are varying degrees of crossover with that group of five blue-chippers.

There’s actually a sixth consideration, too. That would be TSN’s No. 13-ranked Carter Yakemchuk, the big 6-foot-3, 30-goal man from the Calgary Hitmen. He warrants inclusion in the same universe as the others. He was ranked as high as No. 4 on one list and as low as No. 20 on another, with four scouts having him in their Top 10.

“What a year if you’re looking for a defenceman,” one scout said. “And you’ve got a real nice mix of types and talent.”

Levshunov is probably regarded as having the highest combination of offensive and defensive prowess, though he’s better with the puck than without.

“Big body, strong, great skater and aggressive,” said one scout.

“All the tools to be a No. 1,” said another.

“Played big in big games,” said a third. “He’s probably NHL ready, and if not, 25 to 40 games in the American League and he is.”

“Careless, if not reckless on defence sometimes but he just needs to be coached,” said another.

Silayev is repeatedly referred to as a “unicorn.”

There are no 6-foot-7 defencemen in this draft who move as well as him. There aren’t many 6-foot-7 defencemen on the planet who skate as well as this behemoth. He started the KHL season with a flourish, getting eight points in eight games, but his offensive output really dried up as the season wore on. The early comparisons to Victor Hedman have mostly faded, but the excitement over his future NHL prospects have not.

“At the end of the day, all that really matters is that he’s a 17-year-old who played regularly in the KHL and played well and showed he has all the tools be a shutdown NHL defender who can still skate and carry or pass a puck up the ice,” said a scout. “That’s a unicorn.”

“He’s going to be an elite defender,” another scout said. “A huge minute muncher. That and that alone provides huge value, but he’s not without some offensive ability, but it’s most definitely secondary.”

There are certainly defencemen in the group of six who have way more offensive upside than Silayev. And the Russian Factor could come into a play to some degree as well.

“No doubt, none of us have had eyes [live] on him, so that can complicate a decision,” a scout said. “We won’t ever have met him until we get to Las Vegas. And if you’re picking in the top five or 10 and you want a defenceman, you’ve got a whole bunch of really good ones who you have seen live and who you have talked to and know pretty much everything about.”

It doesn’t hurt that Silayev was coached by Hall of Famer Igor Larionov, who is accessible and well connected with NHL GMs, scouts and executive.

No. 5 Dickinson had an outstanding season for the OHL champion London Knights. He’s big, fast and transports the puck so efficiently.

“Of all the top defencemen this year, [Dickinson] is probably the least risky pick,” said one scout. “He has great size, great mobility. Compared to some of the others [Levshunov, Buium and Parekh, in particular], his offensive ceiling might be more limited, but this kid is going to play in your top four for 15 years.”

“Dickinson is a complete package,” added another. “He’s not the most physical guy; he’s not the most offensive; he doesn’t have the best shot, but he still gives you a LOT of everything. He’s such an easy guy to project as a complementary player on your top pair or the lead guy on your second pair.”

No. 6 Buium is a solid 6-footer, and all the American did was win in the last 13 months — the 2023 U-18 World Championship; the 2024 World Junior Championship; and the 2024 NCAA Frozen Four title.

“He controls the game with his skating and offensive ability,” a scout said. “He doesn’t just walk the offensive blueline, he dives right in and creates offence. He’s going to be on your No. 1 power play.”

“I started the year thinking he was a one-dimensional offensive guy,” said another scout, “but as the year progressed, so did his defensive game. He’s a capable defender and he’s only going to get better.”

“This is a mature kid,” added a third scout. “He has a real pro mentality.”

No. 7 Parekh is a flashy and dynamic presence with the offensive numbers — 33 goals and 96 points in 66 games for Saginaw — to prove it.

He is widely regarded as having the highest offensive ceiling of any defenceman in the draft, but that carries with it an element of risk, too, because he’s not quite as physically developed as the others and he’s more of a damn-the-torpedoes, riverboat-gambler type.

“He doesn’t have a [defensive] conscience,” one scout said. “If he gets scored on because he was out of position or made a big mistake, he comes right back and it’s like he’s thinking, ‘That’s okay, I’ll just go get a couple of goals to make up for it.’”

Some scouts think he’s a little better defensively than he gets credit for — he’s adept at breaking up plays with heady anticipation and an active stick — but his projection is as a No. 1 offensive defenceman.

“If he hits, that’s what he is,” a scout said. “If not…”

One of the scouts who ranked him in the top four of the entire draft said this about him: “He has unique offensive ability, No. 1 power play potential and it’s hard to find that level of offence from a defenceman. He’s a special type of player.”

No. 13 Yakemchuk gets some mixed reviews, but at 6-foot-3, plus a big shot that produced 30 goals for the Hitmen and more than 100 penalty minutes, there’s a lot to like, too.

“He’s big and long,” said a scout who believes Yakemchuk is a Top 5 overall prospect. “He boxes guys out pretty well and he does have some bite. He has great offensive instincts. His skating is a little funky, but he gets there.”

Some have compared Yakemchuk’s game to Edmonton Oiler offensive defenceman Evan Bouchard. They both shoot the puck from the blueline with authority, especially on the PP. Bouchard’s defensive game started to mature this season, but the scouts say Yakemchuk has a lot of room for improvement in that area. Bouchard is an elite NHL passer — and he was in his draft year — but Yakemchuk is a work in progress.

“His skating needs some work and so does his ability to defend, but he’s obviously got some tools,” another scout said. “He’s more of a scorer than a passer. He can be physical but it’s inconsistent.”

If it’s a challenge to separate and order the top six defencemen in the draft, the same dynamic is very much at play with the top six forwards on TSN’s final list.

Yes, Demidov is clearly the second-best forward and consensus No. 2 overall prospect. If you were to take Celebrini and his 10 first-place votes out of the equation, nine of the 10 scouts on our panel have Demidov as the top forward.

We don’t know yet if the Russian Factor with Demidov will be real or imagined on draft day, but if you squint some you could make a not outlandish case that the third-ranked forward and No. 5 overall prospect may be a viable challenger to the Russian winger.

Medicine Hat’s Cayden Lindstrom is 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds. When he has the puck, he uses that size effectively to drive through heavy traffic to the front of the net and score goals, something he did 27 times in an injury-shortened 32-game WHL season. When he doesn’t have the puck, he uses his big body and an aggressive mindset to hit and punish opponents all over the ice.

If the Russian Factor is the yin of the NHL draft, then the Big No. 1 Centre Factor is most definitely the yang.

Which is to say NHL GMs and talent evaluators hold a special place in their hearts for prospects who have all the assets to be a big, productive top-line centre. Lindstrom checks a lot of those boxes.

That’s why our 10 NHL scouts ranked him as high as No. 3 and no lower than No. 9. Seven of the 10 ranked him in the top five; two of them putting the member of Driftpile Cree Nation who grew up in Chetwynd, B.C., at No. 3 overall. One of the scouts who ranked him No. 3 had Lindstrom as the top (non-Celebrini) forward prospect in the draft, ahead of Demidov.

“He has all the tools — size, strength, power, skating, skill, toughness — you would want in a No. 1 NHL power-scoring centre,” said one scout. “He won’t be the stereotypical No. 1 point-producing centre because he’s a shooter, not a passer, but he’s mean and aggressive, too. What’s not to like?”

Well, like all young prospects, he has to get physically stronger to play his game at the next level. No one suggested Lindstrom is without hockey sense but it’s not the strongest part of his game, though as one scout said, “Shooting the puck in the other team’s net is.”

The biggest concern, though, is Lindstrom’s health.

He broke his hand in mid-December, and it required surgery, which in the grand scheme of things is no big deal. Stuff like that happens. But while he was out with the hand injury, he experienced issues with his lower back, which effectively ended his regular season.

He did come back to play in four playoff games but NHL teams with interest in Lindstrom want assurances that the back problem is neither ongoing nor structural in nature.

“If you’re taking a guy in the top five of the draft,” one scout said, “you can’t have any doubts about his back.”

Teams have been supplied with Lindstrom’s medical report, which respective team doctors have been analyzing. No one is suggesting it’s necessarily a red flag, but scouts say their teams are still doing their due diligence to be totally comfortable.

“I don’t believe it’s going to be an issue at all,” one NHL team head scout said. “But you also understand why teams need to have confidence and clarity.”

As intriguing as it to see in which order the top six defencemen are taken on Friday, it’s also going to be fascinating to see how things unfold for the six-pack of forwards in the top 12. That is, Demidov, Lindstrom and the four ranked between Nos. 9 and 12 on our final list.

No. 9 is Finn Konsta Helenius, a heady, two-way, sub-6 foot centre who put up solid numbers (14 goals and 36 points in 51 games) for Jukurit in Finland’s No. 1 Liiga. Helenius was ranked as high as No. 3 overall (by two scouts) and five scouts had him in their top seven while the other five ranked him in a range from 11 to 18.

“He’s an exceptional two-way centre,” one scout said. “If he’s not the smartest or most cerebral prospect, he’s certainly one of them.”

The question some scouts ask is whether Helenius has enough offensive upside to be a No. 1 NHL centre.

“If you don’t think so, maybe you don’t want to use a Top 10 pick on him, but worst case, he’s going to be a good two-way No. 2 [centre],” a scout said.

“You can’t forget he was playing against men, he put up solid point totals in a tough league and when he gets with his peer group in junior events, his skill and sense really took off,” another scout added.

No. 10 is Tij Iginla, the son of Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. The Kelowna Rockets winger scored 47 goals and 84 points in 64 games and has arguably the best shot of any prospect. Iginla was ranked as high as No. 6, no lower than No. 12 and six of 10 scouts had him in their Top 10.

“He literally just kept scoring goals and playing so well this season that he made you pay attention and move him up on your list,” a scout said.

“He’s not his dad — who is? — but he does have one of the hardest shots and best releases in the draft,” another scout said. “He’s showing flashes of having a power game; he’s hard to contain.”

Iginla was outstanding at the U-18 World Championship and demonstrated there he’s more than a one-trick (big shot) pony. He also tested and interviewed well at the NHL Central Scouting Bureau Combine in Buffalo.

No. 11 is Beckett Sennecke, the Oshawa General big (almost 6-foot-3) winger who has dynamic skill and, along with Iginla, has rocketed up the draft charts with great buzz and fanfare. Sennecke was ranked by our scouting panel as high as No. 5, no lower than No. 14 and had a total of four Top 10 votes.

“I didn’t like his game one bit in the first half of the season,” said a scout, “and I absolutely loved everything about him in the second half. From January on, he took off. He was better in February than he was in January; he was better in March than he was in February; he was better in April than March. He had a great playoff.”

Sennecke has the potential to provide highlight-reel material every time the puck is on his stick. Scouts expect him to considerably fill out his frame and when he does, there’s a sense he could be something special.

“A big forward with size and high-end skill who’s just realizing how good he can be, he also seems to have an F-you vibe to his game,” said another scout. “I don’t think I’m alone in asking this question, but is it possible he could turn out to be the best forward in the draft besides Celebrini?”

“If he goes in the top five of this draft, I wouldn’t be overly surprised,” said another scout. “I feel like he’s still surging.”

No. 12 is Berkly Catton, the smallish (5-foot-10, 175-pound) but prolific (54 goals and 116 points in 68 games) Spokane Chiefs centre. Catton was ranked as high as No. 7 and no lower than No. 18, with four Top 10 votes.

All Catton does is produce. He was Canada’s best player — “by a country mile,” one scout said — at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last August, scoring eight goals and 10 points in five games. On a middling Spokane Chief team, he put up extraordinary goal and point totals, the most impressive of any player in the Class of 2024.

“The knock on him is obviously his size but he manufactures offence as well or better than any (draft eligible) player,” a scout said. “He wasn’t surrounded by a lot of elite talent on that Spokane team, and he still shot out the lights.”

Catton’s best-case scenario pro projection probably tops out at No. 2 centre and No. 1 power-play guy, but a couple of scouts expressed some concern about his size factor perhaps limiting his ceiling.

On the other hand?

“His hockey sense and skills are better than any forward [in the draft] with the exception of [Celebrini and Demidov],” said a scout. 

Another closely monitored storyline in this year’s draft will be the tale of two Americans.

No. 14 is U.S. U-18 program goal-scoring whiz Cole Eiserman and No. 15 is Trevor Connelly, an offensively gifted left winger who played for Tri-City in the USHL. Each of them is amongst the most highly skilled players available in the draft.

Eiserman is often referred to as the most natural goal scorer and/or having the best shot in the class of 2024.

Small wonder. He had 58 goals and 89 points in 49 games for the U.S. U-18 national team this season and established the career goal-scoring record for the U.S. National Development Team Program (USNDTP) with 127, eclipsing Montreal Canadien Cole Caufield’s mark of 126. Eiserman is also second in career USNDTP points (193), behind only New Jersey Devil Jack Hughes’ 228.

What’s most notable about Eiserman’s story is how as his goal-scoring numbers continued to rise this season, his draft stock continued to decline.

In TSN’s pre-season rankings, he was ranked No. 2 behind Celebrini. Eiserman and Celebrini, incidentally, are close friends and former teammates/linemates at Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school. If Celebrini were to return to Boston University next season for his sophomore season he would be joined by incoming freshman Eiserman, who had previously committed to the Terriers.

Back in September, Eiserman was billed by some as a potential challenger to Celebrini for No. 1. In fact, one of the 10 scouts surveyed back then ranked Eiserman ahead of Celebrini.

In TSN’s mid-season rankings in late January, Eiserman dropped from No. 2 to No. 4.

But by the time TSN did its Draft Lottery Edition rankings in early May, he had plummeted all the way to No. 13.

Now he’s sitting solidly at No. 14 on our final list.

Eiserman didn’t get a single Top 10 vote from any of the 10 scouts in our final rankings. He was slotted as high as No. 11 but no lower than No. 16 on their lists, so he’s still a strong consensus Top 15 prospect.

But the slide, for a high-end pick, has been precipitous.

“He’s quite one dimensional, he’s a one-way shooter,” said a scout. “He has a great shot — no one has a better one timer — but is it going to translate [to pro] because he either can’t or won’t do the other things necessary [to score in the NHL]?”

Some scouts said he exhibits some selfish qualities on the ice, suggesting he’s more interested in personal achievement at the expense of developing his overall game or team play. Others, however, believe the criticisms are overblown and his strengths are too enticing to ignore.

“There may be an immaturity there, but there’s also a rare ability to put the puck in the net,” said another scout. “When [Philadelphia Flyer] Owen Tippett was in junior, he was viewed the same way and you saw this year that [Tippett] finally figured it out. Will [Eiserman] figure it out? If he does…well, look out, because this guy would allow himself to get hit by a truck if he thought he might score a goal on the play.”

It may well be that the worst of it — falling from No. 2 to 14 and hearing the disparaging remarks why — is over for Eiserman because there’s certainly reason to believe on draft day he will still be highly regarded as a blue-chip Top 15 pick with top six NHL potential.

And then there’s the case of Trevor Connelly, TSN’s No. 15 ranked prospect.

The native of Tustin, Calif., is a complete wild card.

The 6-foot-1, 160-pound winger is universally regarded as one of the more talented and skilled forwards available. Scouts often compare his on-ice game to a young J.T. Miller in terms of attributes and style of play.

“Top five to top seven talent in the offensive department,” said one scout. “He has great skills, a motor that doesn’t quit and some bite, too.”

And yet…

“He’s on our list but we won’t be drafting him,” said one NHL team head scout. “He’s not a consideration for us.”

Connelly was ranked by our scouting panel as high as No. 8 and no lower than No. 23, but garnered two votes in the Top 10 and six in the Top 15. But those numbers may not be an accurate reflection of the range he will be taken because there is a notable asterisk alongside his name.

NHL teams have been busy sorting through some off-ice character/behaviour-related issues that have been attributed to Connelly, trying to determine what is real or imagined; whether he’s a “bad kid” or an immature one who made some bad decisions. Or where on that spectrum he falls.

The most concerning issue occurred in 2022, when Connelly was 16 years old, playing for the Long Island Gulls. Connelly posted to his Snapchat account a picture of a teammate sitting on the floor with children’s building blocks arranged in the shape of a swastika. Connelly’s post beneath the picture read: “creations.”

The swastika has become a symbol of anti-Semitism, white supremacy and/or Nazism.

Connelly, his family and advisors accepted full responsibility for that specific action and have gone to significant and quite public lengths to own it and atone for it.

“On that particular issue, [Connelly] has been very up front and forthcoming and he has the receipts to show that he’s educated himself, done real work with [the Jewish and Black community],” a scout said. “He’s owned it and learned from it.”

But there have been other allegations, including one that Connelly used a racial slur against an opponent in 2021. Connelly and his family/advisors have denied that ever occurred. Teams have been doing thorough background checks on all of that, and more.

So, too, has The Athletic. Connelly was the subject a long, detailed story by investigative reporter Katie Strang and NHL draft journalist Corey Pronman in February. Here’s a link to that story (which is behind a paywall).

Connelly had more than 20 interviews with NHL clubs at the Draft Combine in Buffalo.

Anecdotally, it would appear some teams have already decided they won’t draft Connelly. But it should surprise no one if there are some other clubs who will have no qualms calling his name, though no one seems to have any sense at which point in the draft that may happen.

“If you draft him, there’s going to be an outcry, there’s going to be some controversy,” one scout said. “The question you have to ask is whether your club is up for that. That’s a decision that gets made by ownership. He’s a helluva prospect. He’s not a criminal. He may or may not be a bad kid. There’s a lot there to process.”

“Character matters,” another scout added. “So, you have to decide whether [Connelly] has a fatal [character] flaw or he’s a young man who made a mistake and is now on the right road. That’s really the bottom line.”

Connelly had 31 goals and 78 points in 52 games for Tri-City Storm in the USHL.

Playing in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last August for Team USA, he had five goals and 10 points in five games and was one of the better players in the tournament.

He also suited up for Team USA at the IIHF U-18 World Championship and had four goals and nine points in seven games. Team USA won the silver medal, but Connelly took a five-minute major in the third period that keyed a comeback victory by Canada in the gold-medal game.

He also was a standout for Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge last December and scored four goals in the bronze-medal game.

Connelly is committed to Providence College for next season.

So, he has represented his country three times in the last year; played a full season in the USHL, and will be playing in the NCAA next season. It’s not like anything that has or hasn’t happened in his young career has been an impediment thus far.

But now it’s for teams to decide if or when he’s going to be given his opportunity to play in the NHL.

A few final notes, observations and thoughts on TSN’s Final 2024 NHL Draft Rankings:

— It’s a big year for the Vikings. Well, the Norwegian branch anyway.

Norway has not one but two prospects in our Top 32. No Norwegian has ever been taken in the first round of the NHL draft. That drought should end Friday.

Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, an almost 6-foot-1 and 200-plus pound, hard-shooting right winger, is No. 17 on the TSN list and countryman Stian Solberg, a rugged shutdown defender who checks in at almost 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, is No. 20.

Eight of 10 scouts ranked Brandsegg-Nygard between Nos. 14 and 18; seven of 10 scouts had Solberg between Nos. 15 and 26. Solberg jumped 25 slots from the mid-season to final rankings. It’s fair to say the hottest commodities in the second half of this season were Iginla, Sennecke and Solberg.


ContentId(1.2139925): 'It's a big year for the Vikings': Brandsegg-Nygard, Solberg representing Norway proudly

As for the other branch of the Vikings, not a good year for Sweden, with zero prospects in our Top 32. In fact, our highest-ranked Swede is No. 40 Lucas Pettersson, a centre who has a shot to creep into the first round but is a consensus second rounder.

— Canada leads the way in our Top 32, with 18 Canadians making the cut, compared to only four Americans, three Russians, two each from Finland, Norway and Czechia. Belarus, of course, rounds it out with one (Levshunov).

It’s not a banner year for the Quebec Maritime Junior Hockey League. Zero prospects in TSN’s top 32, but Quebecois Sacha Boisvert, who plays centre for Muskegon in the USHL, is a solid No. 22.

— As for goalies, five netminders made our top 90 and two more were in the group of 10 honourable mentions. But no goalies were ranked in our top two rounds.

The top-ranked goaltender is No. 69 Mikhail Yegorov of Omaha in the USHL, followed by: Owen Sound Attack’s Carter George at No. 71; Finland’s Eemil Vinni at No. 74; Saskatoon Blade Evan Gardner at No. 78; and Russian Ilya Nabokov at No. 89.

The two honourable mentions are Nicholas Kempf of the U.S. U-18 national team and Finn Kim Saarinen.

It was tough to get consensus on the goalies. A number of them could well be drafted in the second round, but the wide array of opinions on so many of them didn’t create much separation between them.

— One prospect who really slipped over the course of the year was Aron Kiviharju, the 5-foot-9 offensive defenceman from Finland who played only seven games because of a knee injury that required surgery.

He was No. 10 on our pre-season rankings in September; he was No. 52 on the final list.

Undoubtedly, not being able to play was the major impediment but there’s also a fairly strong bias against small D these days. It will be interesting to see who steps up to take him and at what point in the draft.

— Apropos of nothing, one name in our Top 32 that seems to be generating a lot of final week buzz: Guelph Storm centre Jett Luchanko. He’s No. 19, but several scouts told us they feel he’s picking up momentum as we head towards Friday’s draft. Someone to keep an eye on.

— Finally, a quick word about this year’s rankings: It was a challenging list to put together, even in the top 10 (as was duly noted when talking about the top prospects).

It seems there’s a divide of sorts between the top 20 on TSN’s list and the next group of as many 20-plus prospects. Famous last words, but it would be shocking if the first 20 on our list aren’t surefire first-rounders. Beyond that, though, the prospects ranked 21-32 would appear to be somewhat interchangeable with those ranked 33 to 50.

In particular, there’s very little separating the six players from No. 33 to No. 38 — Charlie Elick, Egor Surin, Nikita Artamonov, Dean Letourneau, Matvei Gridin and Jesse Pulkkinen — with those ranked from around No. 25 to 32.

And all but two prospects between 40 and 52 received at least one first-round vote.

Prospects ranked below No. 50 who got first-round consideration from at least one scout included: Rimouski’s Spencer Gill at No. 53; Kingston Jacob Battaglia at No. 57; Sudbury’s Nathan Villeneuve at No. 73; Niagara’s Kevin He at No. 79 and Sweden’s Melvin Fernstrom at No. 80.



McKenzie's Final Ranking - June 25

RK Player Team Pos HT WT GP G P
1 Macklin Celebrini  Boston U (NCAA) C 5'11 ¾ 197 38 32 64
2 Ivan Demidov St. Petersburg (MHL) LW 6'0 ½ 192 30 23 60
3 Artyom Levshunov Michigan State (NCAA) D 6'1 ¾ 205 38 9 35
4 Anton Silayev Nizhny Novgorod (KHL) D 6'7 211 63 3 11
5 Cayden Lindstrom Medicine Hat (WHL) C 6'3 213 32 27 46
6 Sam Dickinson London (OHL) D 6'2 ¾ 203 68 18 70
7 Zeev Buium Denver (NCAA) D 6'0 186 42 11 50
8 Zayne Parekh Saginaw (OHL) D 6'0 ¼ 178 66 33 96
9 Konsta Helenius Jukurit (SM Liiga) C 5'11 189 51 14 36
10 Tij Iginla Kelowna (WHL) LW 6'0 191 64 47 84
11 Beckett Sennecke Oshawa (OHL) RW 6'2 ¾ 182 63 27 68
12 Berkly Catton Spokane (WHL) C 5'10 ¼ 175 68 54 116
13 Carter Yakemchuk Calgary (WHL) D 6'3 202 66 30 71
14 Cole Eiserman USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'11 ¾ 197 57 58 89
15 Trevor Connelly Tri-City (USHL) LW 6'0 ¾ 160 48 26 78
16 Adam Jiricek HC Plzeň  (Cze) D 6'2 ½ 167 19 0 1
17 M. Brandsegg-Nygård Mora (SWE J20) RW 6'0 ¾ 207 41 8 18
18 Liam Greentree Windsor (OHL) RW 6'2 ½ 215 64 36 90
19 Jett Luchanko Guelph (OHL) C 5'11 187 68 20 74
20 Stian Solberg Oslo (NOR) D 6'1 ½ 205 42 5 15
21 Igor Chernyshov Moscow (MHL) LW 6'2 ¾ 204 22 13 28
22 Sacha Boisvert Muskegon (USHL) C 6'2 183 55 33 68
23 Cole Beaudoin Barrie (OHL) C 6'2 210 67 28 62
24 Michael Hage Chicago (USHL) C/RW 6'0 ¾ 188 50 31 75
25 Terik Parascak Prince George (WHL) RW 5'11 ¾ 179 68 43 105
26 Emil Hemming TPS (SM Liiga) RW 6'1 ¼ 205 40 7 11
27 EJ Emery USA NTDP (USHL) D 6'3 ¼ 183 61 0 16
28 Marek Vanacker Brantford (OHL) LW 6'0 ½ 178 68 36 82
29 Dominik Badinka Malmo (SHL) D 6'2 ¾ 185 33 1 4
30 Andrew Basha Medicine Hat (WHL) LW 5'11 ¼ 187 63 30 85
31 Ryder Ritchie Prince Albert (WHL) C/RW 6'0 ¼ 177 47 19 44
32 Sam O'Reilly London (OHL) RW 6'1 ¼ 185 68 20 56
33 Charlie Elick Brandon (WHL) D 6'3 ¼ 202 65 4 27
34 Egor Surin Yaroslavl (MHL) C/RW 6'0 ¾ 197 42 22 52
35 Nikita Artamonov Nizhny Novgorod (KHL) LW 5'11 187 54 7 23
36 Dean Letourneau St. Andrew's (PHC) C 6'6 ½ 214 56 61 127
37 Matvei Gridin Muskegon (USHL) LW 6'1 ½ 189 54 33 73
38 Jesse Pulkkinen JYP (SM Liiga Jr.) D 6'6 219 29 2 8
39 Maxim Massé Chicoutimi (QMJHL) RW 6'2 ¼ 190 67 36 75
40 Lucas Pettersson Modo (SWE J20) C 5'11 ½ 173 44 27 57
41 Alfons Freij Vaxjo (SWE J20) D 6'0 ½ 197 40 14 33
42 Leo Sahlin Wallenius Vaxjo Jr. (SWE J20) D 6'0 180 43 11 42
43 Teddy Stiga USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'10 178 61 36 79
44 Linus Eriksson Djurgardens (SWE J20) C 6'0 189 29 3 11
45 Tanner Howe Regina (WHL) LW 5'10 184 68 28 77
46 Julius Miettinen Everett (WHL) C 6'3 201 66 31 67
47 Cole Hutson USA NTDP (USHL) D 5'10 ½ 165 51 15 51
48 Henry Mews Ottawa (OHL) D 6'0 ¼ 189 65 15 61
49 Will Skahan USA NTDP (USHL) D 6'4 ½ 215 60 5 14
50 Matvei Shuravin Moskva (MHL) D 6'3 ¾ 218 22 0 7
51 Adam Kleber Lincoln (USHL) D 6'5 ½ 215 56 5 26
52 Aron Kiviharju HIFK  (SM Liiga) D 5'9 ½ 184 7 1 2
53 Spencer Gill Rimouski (QMJHL) D 6'3 ¾ 186 65 12 46
54 Ben Danford Oshawa (OHL) D 6'1 ½ 191 64 1 33
55 Gabriel Eliasson HV71 (SWE J20) D 6'6 203 36 1 6
56 Leon Muggli ZUG (SUI) D 6'0 ½ 177 42 3 12
57 Jacob Battaglia Kingston (OHL) LW 6'0 ½ 202 67 31 65
58 John Mustard Waterloo (USHL) C 6'1 186 53 25 50
59 Kamil Bednarik USA NTDP (USHL) C 6'0 ¼ 187 61 26 65
60 Adam Jecho Edmonton (WHL) RW 6'5 201 54 23 47
61 Harrison Brunicke Kamloops (WHL) D 6'2 ½ 196 49 10 21
62 Luca Marrelli Oshawa (OHL) D 6'1 ½ 185 67 6 57
63 Colin Ralph S-S Mary's (USHS) D 6'4 ¼ 226 57 8 66
64 Jack Berglund Farjestad (SWE J20) LW 6'3 ½ 210 41 15 34
65 Max Plante USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'11 177 51 15 61
66 Brodie Ziemer USA NTDP (USHL) RW 5'11 196 61 27 70
67 Miguel Marques Lethbridge (WHL) RW 5'10 ¼ 187 67 28 74
68 Ondrej Kos KOOVEE (FIN) LW 6'2 ½ 176 14 3 5
69 Mikhail Yegorov Omaha (USHL) G 6'4 179 43 3.86 .892
70 Carson Wetsch Calgary (WHL) RW 6'0 ½ 203 67 25 50
71 Carter George Owen Sound (OHL) G 6'1 194 56 3.30 .907
72 Luke Misa Mississauga (OHL) C 5'9 ½ 174 66 26 81
73 Nathan Villeneuve Sudbury (OHL) C 6'0 183 56 23 50
74 Eemil Vinni JoKP (SM Liiga Jr.) G 6'2 ¾ 187 37 2.72 .892
75 Veeti Vaisanen KooKoo (SM Liiga Jr.) D 6'0 ½ 188 37 3 22
76 Kasper Pikkarainen TPS (SM Liiga Jr.) RW 6'3 197 34 12 28
77 Tomas Lavoie Cape Breton (QMJHL) D 6'4 220 65 3 24
78 Evan Gardner Saskatoon (WHL) G 6'2 174 30 1.91 .927
79 Kevin He Niagara (OHL) LW 6'0 183 64 31 53
80 Melvin Fernstrom Orebro (SWE J20) RW 6'0 ¾ 188 45 31 63
81 Tarin Smith Everett (WHL) D 6'1 ¼ 187 67 8 46
82 Tomas Galvas Liberec (Cze) D 5'10 ¼ 153 32 2 7
83 Aatos Koivu TPS (SM Liiga Jr.) C 6'0 165 28 16 31
84 Colton Roberts Vancouver (WHL) D 6'3 ¾ 204 62 7 27
85 Raoul Boilard Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) C 6'1 189 68 22 62
86 Lukas Fischer Sarnia (OHL) D 6'3 182 68 6 34
87 Ethan Procyszyn North Bay (OHL) RW 6'2 181 62 15 36
88 Simon Zether Rogle (SWE J20) RW/C 6'3 176 18 11 27
89 Ilya Nabokov Magnitogorsk (KHL) G 6'1 179 43 2.15 .930
90 Anthony Romani North Bay (OHL) C/RW 6'0 179 68 58 111
HM Ondrej Becher Prince George (WHL) C/LW 6'1 ¼ 187 58 32 96
HM Alexis Bernier Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) D 6'1 190 67 4 31
HM Nicholas Kempf USA NTDP (USHL) G 6'2 190 37 2.99 .897
HM Timur Kol Krylia (MHL) D 6'3 198 14 2 8
HM Eriks Mateiko Saint John (QMJHL) LW 6'4 201 49 23 43
HM Heikki Ruohonen Espoo (SM Liiga Jr.) C 6'1 196 37 20 47
HM Kim Saarinen HPK (SM Liiga Jr.) G 6'4 181 23 2.41 .917
HM Sebastian Soini KOOVEE (FIN) D 6'2 ½ 187 32 0 8
HM AJ Spellacy Windsor (OHL) C 6'3 190 67 21 38
HM Herman Traff HV71 (SWE J20) RW 6'3 203 26 13 21