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Sharks sign No. 1 pick Celebrini to entry-level contract


CHICAGO — The top two picks in the NHL draft have signed three-year, entry-level contracts.

The San Jose Sharks announced the signing of center Macklin Celebrini, the No. 1 overall pick, on Saturday, while the Chicago Blackhawks inked defenseman Artyom Levshunov, who went No. 2. Each signing carries a $975,000 salary cap hit.

The moves mean Celebrini (Boston University) and Levshunov (Michigan State) will move to the pros after a single college season. Both are 18.

Celebrini had 32 goals and 32 assists in 38 games as a freshman at BU last season, becoming the youngest winner of the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in college hockey. The native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, moved to Northern California in 2018 at the age of 12 when his father, Rick, became the Golden State Warriors director of sports medicine and performance.

The Sharks are counting on Celebrini to help lead a dramatic turnaround after the team finished the season with the worst record in the NHL (19-54-9) and their fewest points since the 1995-96 season.

“Macklin is not only a special player on the ice, but he is a poised, confident and intelligent young man off of it,” general manager Mike Grier said. “His combination of skills and hockey sense is rare, and we are extremely confident that he is ready to make the transition to being a full time NHL player."

Levshunov most likely will begin his professional career with Rockford of the American Hockey League. He might be able to make the Blackhawks out of training camp, but the team signed veteran defensemen Alec Martinez and T.J. Brodie on the first day of free agency.

“Signing Artyom gives us the opportunity to continue his development in house and take the next step into professional hockey,” GM Kyle Davidson said. “He’s a strong two-way defenseman that has all the tools to be a high-end player in the NHL and we’re excited to continue his growth at the pro level.”

Levshunov had nine goals and 26 assists for Michigan State this season. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Levshunov was the fourth overall player from Belarus selected in the first round of the NHL draft, and earliest selected after defenseman Ruslan Salei went ninth to Anaheim in 1996.