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Button's Final Mock Draft: Celebrini the only certainty in unpredictable class


Much like how everyone knew the Chicago Blackhawks were taking Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, it’s no secret who the San Jose Sharks will be selecting first overall on Friday night.

In his final mock draft ahead of Friday’s festivities, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has Boston University centre Macklin Celebrini heading to the Sharks, who have the No. 1 pick in the draft for the first time in franchise history.

The 17-year-old has deep ties to the Bay Area via his father, Rick, the director of sports medicine and performance for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. As a child, he played part of his youth hockey in California with the Jr. Sharks program.

The North Vancouver, B.C. product had a historic season in the NCAA this year, scoring 32 goals and 64 points in 38 games as a freshman, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the top men’s player in Division I college hockey.

“He’s the obvious best player in this draft and he’s complete,” said Button. “I think Will Smith being drafted fourth overall last year and Macklin Celebrini being drafted first overall this year is reminiscent of how Pittsburgh built their franchise. [Evgeni] Malkin was picked before [Sidney] Crosby, in back to back years they picked those two guys, and they became really important to the success of the Pittsburgh Penguins for years.”

With Celebrini in his own tier as the clear-cut top prospect, the rest of the draft is anybody’s guess with no consensus after him.

With the No. 2 pick, Button has SKA St. Petersburg winger Ivan Demidov going to the Blackhawks as a future running mate for Bedard.

In 30 games this season, Demidov scored 23 goals with 60 points in Russia’s junior league.

“I think he’s like [Nikita] Kucherov,” said Button of Demidov. “They [Blackhawks] got the first-overall pick last year and got Bedard. They’ve got a chance now to put another guy right beside him.

“Much like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, that dynamic duo who led the Chicago Blackhawks to massive success, I think that putting Demidov and Bedard on the same team, they can become just as significant of a dynamic duo.”

Button has the first defenceman going off the board at No. 3, with the Anaheim Ducks taking Denver’s Zeev Buium.

After the Ducks took centre Leo Carlsson last year and added forward Cutter Gauthier in a trade that sent defenceman Jamie Drysdale to the Philadelphia Flyers in January, Button sees a fit in Anaheim with Buium.

The 18-year-old led all defencemen in NCAA scoring last year with 50 points in 42 games and won the NCAA national championship and World Junior gold with the United States. Button also draws a parallel between Buium and the defenceman who captained the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

“He’s the best defenceman in the draft,” said Button. “I think he’s complete. He can play right side [and] left side, in any situation in the game and everything is under control. He reminds me of Scott Niedermayer.

“Scott Niedermayer never blew you away with skill, with the big offensive points. Bottom line is, the guy was a massive difference-maker to winning out on the ice, controlling the game, doesn’t matter what the situation was. That’s what Zeev does.”

The Columbus Blue Jackets had last year’s Hobey Baker winner Adam Fantilli fall into their laps at No. 3, and this year Button has them continuing to solidify the centre ice position, taking Cayden Lindstrom of the Medicine Hat Tigers at No. 4.

“I’m looking at players that will come in and they’re going to be difference-makers, not just because of their skill but also because of their will,” said Button. “They don’t accept losing, and if you don’t have players like that, you’re never going to win. Cayden Lindstrom is that guy. I think Fantilli is that guy. But you got start adding guys like that or you’re going to be forever in nowhere land.”

For the second year in a row, the Montreal Canadiens have the fifth-overall pick and are the first Canadian team that will be selecting.

After taking Austrian defenceman David Reinbacher at No. 5 last year, Button has the team looking to the forward position this year by selecting Kelowna Rockets winger Tij Iginla, the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome. He had 47 goals and 84 points in 64 regular-season games and 15 points in 11 playoff contests.

“I think Tij Iginla, he is a difference-maker like his father, he plays hard when it matters, the ‘on’ switch is always on,” said Button. “He’s a different type of player but I think he can influence things and build like the way [Juraj] Slafkovsky plays, the will and the drive of [Nick] Suzuki and [Kaiden] Guhle. Those players that are in it to win it.”

The next Canadian team set to pick is the Ottawa Senators at No. 7. The Senators haven’t picked in the first round since taking forward Tyler Boucher 10th overall in 2021 and Button has them drafting Saginaw Spirit defenceman Zayne Parekh, who had 96 points last season and is fresh off a Memorial Cup championship.

“Zayne Parekh, offensive wizard,” said Button. “They do not have a player like that on the blueline. They have lots of offensive players and they have good young prospects. They do not have an offensive wizard right-shot ‘D’ [who] conjures up images of Erik Karlsson.”

Two spots later, the Calgary Flames are on the board at No. 9 with Button projecting them to take Russian defenceman Anton Silayev, who played a regular role as a teenager in the KHL.

In the midst of retooling, the Flames dealt three top-four defencemen this season in Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov, and are looking to replenish their defensive depth.

“Territorial, great skating, 6-foot-7 unicorn,” said Button of Silayev. “Life is hard when you’re playing against Anton Silayev. They’re building out a blueline that has all the elements you need to be successful.”

A Canadian team doesn’t pick again until No. 23, when the Toronto Maple Leafs are on the board. Button has Toronto prioritizing defence, selecting USNTDP blueliner E.J. Emery at No. 23. At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Emery had 16 assists in 61 games and is committed to the University of North Dakota.

“He’s territorial, he’s a great skating defender,” said Button. “He’s a defensive defenceman. It’s hard to get an edge on E.J. He beats pressure, he closes the play, and he gets the puck moving up the ice.

“When you have somebody that can play that effectively and play that well with that type of ability, he doesn’t need to put up points. Bottom line is your offensive players can play on the other side of the red line. That’s what the Toronto Maple Leafs need.”

The Canadiens and Flames both have an extra pick in the latter half of the first round.

At No. 26, Button has the Canadiens selecting Medicine Hat Tigers winger Andrew Basha with the Flames drafting London Knights centre Sam O’Reilly at No. 28.


Craig Button's Final Mock Draft - June 26

No. Team Player Team Pos HT WT GP G P
1 SJ Macklin Celebrini Boston U (NCAA) C 5'11 ¾ 197 38 32 64
2 Chi Ivan Demidov St. Petersburg (MHL) LW 6'0 ½ 192 30 23 60
3 Ana Zeev Buium Denver (NCAA) LD 6'0 186 42 11 50
4 CBJ Cayden Lindstrom Medicine Hat (WHL) C 6'3 213 32 27 46
5 Mtl Tij Iginla Kelowna (WHL) LW 6'0 191 64 47 84
6 Uta Artyom Levshunov Michigan State (NCAA) RD 6'1 ¾ 205 38 9 35
7 Ott Zayne Parekh Saginaw (OHL) RD 6'0 ¼ 178 66 33 96
8 Sea Sam Dickinson London (OHL) LD 6'2 ¾ 203 68 18 70
9 Cgy Anton Silayev Nizhny Novgorod (KHL) LD 6'7 211 63 3 11
10 NJ Beckett Sennecke Oshawa (OHL) RW 6'2 ¾ 182 63 27 68
11 Buf Carter Yakemchuk Calgary (WHL) RD 6'3 202 66 30 71
12 Phi Konsta Helenius Jukurit (SM Liiga) C 5'11 189 51 14 36
13 Min Cole Eiserman USA NTDP (USHL) LW 5'11 ¾ 197 57 58 89
14 SJ Adam Jiricek HC Plzeň  (Cze) RD 6'2 ½ 167 19 0 1
15 Det Berkly Catton Spokane (WHL) C 5'10 ¼ 175 68 54 116
16 StL Trevor Connelly Tri-City (USHL) LW 6'0 ¾ 160 48 26 78
17 Wsh Michael Hage Chicago (USHL) C/RW 6'0 ¾ 188 50 31 75
18 Chi M. Brandsegg-Nygård Mora (SWE J20) RW 6'0 ¾ 207 41 8 18
19 VGK Jett Luchanko Guelph (OHL) C 5'11 187 68 20 74
20 NYI Igor Chernyshov Moscow (MHL) LW 6'2 ¾ 204 22 13 28
21 LA Liam Greentree Windsor (OHL) RW 6'2 ½ 215 64 36 90
22 Nsh Stian Solberg Oslo (NOR) LD 6'1 ½ 205 42 5 15
23 Tor EJ Emery USA NTDP (USHL) RD 6'3 ¼ 183 61 0 16
24 Col Cole Beaudoin Barrie (OHL) C 6'2 210 67 28 62
25 Bos Terik Parascak Prince George (WHL) RW 5'11 ¾ 179 68 43 105
26 Mtl Andrew Basha Medicine Hat (WHL) LW 5'11 ¼ 187 63 30 85
27 Car Marek Vanacker Brantford (OHL) LW 6'0 ½ 178 68 36 82
28 Cgy Sam O'Reilly London (OHL) RW 6'1 ¼ 185 68 20 56
29 Dal Sacha Boisvert Muskegon (USHL) C 6'2 183 55 33 68
30 NYR Charlie Elick Brandon (WHL) RD 6'3 ¼ 202 65 4 27
31 Ana Ryder Ritchie Prince Albert (WHL) C/RW 6'0 ¼ 177 47 19 44
32 Phi Dean Letourneau St. Andrew's (PHC) C 6'6 ½ 214 56 61 127