May 24th, 2024

The San Jose Sharks win the NHL draft lottery with expectation to select Macklin Celebrini No. 1

By John Wawrow, The Associated Press on May 7, 2024.

FILE - Boston University's Macklin Celebrini looks to pass the puck against Rochester during an NCAA men's college hockey tournament regional game March 28, 2024, in Sioux Falls, S.D. The San Jose Sharks, who won the NHL draft lottery, are projected to select Celebrini, who is considered this year's top prospect, and ranked first among North American skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting. (AP Photo/Josh Jurgens, File)

Mike Grier was so elated over winning the NHL draft lottery on Tuesday night, the San Jose Sharks general manager dispensed with tradition by coming out and stating exactly who he expects to select with the No. 1 pick: Boston University center Macklin Celebrini.

Where past GMs in Grier’s position have kept their choice under wraps until they step to the podium on draft day, Macklin’s abilities and ties to San Jose were too much to keep it a secret for a Sharks team looking ahead to a brighter future.

“I think so, yeah,” Grier said when asked if he anticipates using the top pick on the 17-year-old forward, college hockey’s youngest Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner and NHL Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked prospect. “It’s a big moment for the organization and the fans here to have the opportunity to draft someone like Macklin.”

Grier then went so far as to envision where Celebrini will fit into his lineup to complement the Sharks veteran centers of Logan Couture and Mikael Granlund.

Suddenly, the sting of finishing last in the overall standings, a yearlong rebuilding process that led to San Jose trading aging stars such as Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns and firing coach David Quinn, has been replaced by a buoyant sense of hope.

“It’s been a tough year for fans and the team and the players and the organization. So this is a nice prize for what we went through. We’re excited,” said Grier, who’s Sharks are scheduled to pick first in the NHL draft for the first time in franchise history. “I think he’s got the ability to play (right away).”

Though from North Vancouver, British Columbia, Celebrini is no stranger to the Bay Area or Grier, who also played at Boston University.

Celebrini’s father, Rick Celebrini, is currently vice president of player health and performance for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and the youngster spent a year playing for the Sharks’ junior team.

“Obviously, they’re a great organization. If I’m fortunate enough to get drafted there, I’d be very lucky,” the younger Celebrini said.

With an 18.5% chance to win the lottery and a 25.5% chance to pick first, the Sharks became the third last-place team in the past four drawings to win the lottery, and 11th overall since the system was put into place in 1995.

The lottery proved anti-climactic with no changes to the draft order for the first time since 2010.

The Chicago Blackhawks, who selected Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick last year, retained the No. 2 selection, followed by the Anaheim Ducks. The NHL’s newest market, Utah, stayed put at No. 6. Salt Lake City landed an NHL franchise with the relocation of the Arizona Coyotes last month.

The Montreal Canadiens are in the No. 5 slot, while the Ottawa Senators have the No. 7 pick and the Calgary Flames are at No. 9.

The league on Tuesday also announced what has been in the works for some time: the draft will be held at the Sphere in Las Vegas June 28 and 29. It’ll be the first event televised at the venue.

Celebrini completed a season in which he finished third among Division I skaters with 64 points (32 goals, 32 assists) in 68 games and earned both Hockey East’s player and rookie of the year honors.

Listed at 6-feet and 190 pounds, he has the opportunity to become just the fourth NCAA player – and second forward – to be selected first overall, and first since Michigan defenseman Owen Power went No. 1 to Buffalo in 2021. The only other college forward drafted first was Michigan State’s Joe Murphy by Detroit in 1986.

Celebrini was college hockey’s youngest player last season and is regarded as being a “strong skater with a fluid stride, elusive speed and quickness,” according to a Central Scouting report.

“I think he’s a 200-foot player, which is rare for someone who is as offensively gifted as he is,” Grier said. “I love his competitiveness. I watch him practice. And he works, every drill he goes as hard as he can. I think he’s a real unique player at this stage.”

This season marked just the second time in franchise history – and first since San Jose’s inaugural season in 1991-92 – the Sharks finished last overall in the NHL standings. San Jose’s 19 wins were the third-fewest in team history in a full NHL season.

The lottery results also led to the Sharks securing a second first-round pick, No. 14 overall and held by Pittsburgh. San Jose acquired the selection in a trade that sent Karlsson to the Penguins, who had the right to retain the selection only if it landed in the top 10 of the draft order.

Michigan State freshman defenseman Artyom Levshunov, who is from Belarus, is ranked second among North American prospects, followed by Medicine Hat Tigers center Cayden Lindstrom.

Central Scouting’s top European skater is 6-foot-7 defenseman Anton Silayev, from Sarov, Russia.

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AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow contributed to this story.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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