2024 NHL Mock Draft: Macklin Celebrini leads Corey Pronman’s first-round predictions

Macklin Celebrini enters the 2024 NHL Draft as the clear No. 1 prospect. At the moment, he looks like an average No. 1 pick, a player with a chance to become a star center in the NHL and a legit building block for a rebuilding team.

After a 2023 NHL Draft that lacked premier defense talent, the way-too-early indicators are that 2024 will be the opposite. Five defensemen are included in my initial top 10 projected players.

Norway has never had a first-round pick in the NHL Draft. That seems set to change, as a Norwegian player slots in as the projected No. 5 pick in this exercise.

Please don’t yell at me over the draft order. It’s based on Vegas odds for the 2023-24 season. Team depth charts are not taken into account for this mock draft; this is my personal draft ranking for the 2024 group, which I’ve turned into a mock draft.

1. Anaheim Ducks: Macklin Celebrini, C, Chicago-USHL

As mentioned, Celebrini enters the summer as the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft. He had the best underage season ever by a player in the USHL and was the best player in the league this season. He’s dynamic with the puck; he has high-end, borderline-elite puck skills and vision. He skates well and makes a ton of difficult plays at quick speeds. Celebrini is a dangerous passer and goal scorer who gives a strong effort away from the puck as well. He’s the complete package, and the very way-too-early indicators are that he’s a potential star No. 1 two-way center in the NHL. He will be playing his draft season as a 17-year-old at Boston University instead of in junior. There are scouts who think he is comparable to or better than Adam Fantilli at the same age, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

2. San Jose Sharks: Cole Eiserman, LW, U.S. NTDP-USHL

Eiserman scored 69 goals for the U.S. program this season. He has game-breaking skill and a high-end shot that can consistently beat goalies from range. Eiserman has average size, but he plays with good pace and can make elite skilled plays at a speed that will translate to the NHL. He doesn’t have the well-rounded play of Celebrini but his offense is just as good if not better.

3. Montreal Canadiens: Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA-MHL

Demidov was one of the best, if not arguably the best player in Russia’s junior league this past season. He’s a dynamo with the puck, displaying truly elite skill to go with excellent playmaking ability. He’s so creative and elusive and creates scoring chances seemingly every shift. He combines great puck play with a very strong motor. Demidov lacks size but is a determined player who wins battles, gets to the net and gives strong second efforts. His skating stride is awkward but powerful. There are a lot of indicators he’ll be a great pro wing.

4. Arizona Coyotes: Sam Dickinson, LHD, London-OHL

If you want to draw up an ideal NHL defenseman, it’s going to look a lot like Dickinson. He’s a mobile 6-foot-3 defender with a high motor and offense in his game. I wouldn’t call him the most instinctive puck-mover in the world, but he has good skill and can make some plays. He’s also a shot threat. That Dickinson can create offense at NHL speeds is the exciting part. He projects to be a very good two-way defender at the pro level who will make a lot of stops due to his length, feet and compete.

Sam Dickinson with a ROCKET to tie it 🚀

The @LondonKnights are on the board thanks to a perfect one-timer from the 16-year-old! 🎥#OHLChampionship | #LDNvsPBO pic.twitter.com/YdSrntmzah

— Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) May 14, 2023

5. Chicago: Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, RW, Mora-Allsvenskan

Brandsegg-Nygard looks to be one of Norway’s brightest hockey prospects in recent memory. He had a great season playing junior and pro hockey in Sweden and helped lead Norway’s U20 team to promotion to the world juniors. He’s a good-sized winger who can skate, has very good individual skill and hockey sense, and a shot that is quite dangerous from the faceoff dots.

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6. Columbus Blue Jackets: Carter Yakemchuk, RHD, Calgary-WHL

Yakemchuk put up ridiculous offensive numbers for a non-draft-eligible defenseman in the CHL this past season. That he has that level of offense while also being 6-foot-2 and having NHL mobility is all the more exciting from an NHL projection standpoint. His skill is excellent; Yakemchuk shows the high-end hands to beat CHL players regularly while doing so at pace. He is a goal-scoring threat with his shot as well. He’s a dynamic player who will have a long NHL career.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: Artyom Levshunov, RHD, Green Bay-USHL

Levshunov is a highly talented offensive-minded defenseman. He can skate pucks up ice with his impressive mobility, he has the skill to beat good defensemen, and he can make plays. Levshunov is also a shot threat from the point. He will run a pro power play and be able to help an NHL team in transition. His defensive play could use some work, but for his age, I’m not that concerned yet.

8. Detroit Red Wings: Aron Kiviharju, LHD, TPS-Liiga

Kiviharju has been an excellent junior defenseman already for several seasons and got extended time at the Liiga level this past season. His hockey sense is outstanding, and he creates a ton of offense due to his brain, skill and elusiveness. He has NHL PP1 abilities, but his 5-foot-9 frame, and good but not amazing skating ability will be major questions on how well his game translates to the NHL.

9. Nashville Predators: Charlie Elick, RHD, Brandon-WHL

Elick has a ton about his game that makes him a top pro prospect. He’s a big, highly mobile, highly competitive right-shot defenseman. He projects to be able to shut down top forwards in the NHL because of his length and mobility plus the fact he doesn’t shy away from using his body. Whether he’s a natural puck-mover is an open question for him going forward, but there’s enough skill in his game that I think he’ll hold up OK at higher levels.

10. Winnipeg Jets: Konsta Helenius, C, Taapara-Liiga

Helenius is an excellent forward prospect and one of the better centers Finland has produced in recent years. He’s undersized, but his excellent speed, skill and vision have allowed him to already be a regular contributor in Liiga at the age of 16. He’s got a great motor in his game which combined with all his offensive talents should allow him to be a very good pro despite his frame.

11. Washington Capitals: Igor Chernyshov, RW, Dynamo Moscow-MHL

Chernyshov had a highly productive junior season in Russia and even got some KHL games with Dynamo. He has a highly desirable combination of traits. He’s a big, strong winger who skates well and handles the puck at a high-end level. He creates offense with pace, can power his way to the net and projects to be able to do so at the higher levels. I wouldn’t call him an amazing playmaker, even though I think he does have hockey sense, as his game is more direct. There’s a lot of pro potential in his game.

12. St. Louis Blues: Will Skahan, LHD, U.S. NTDP-USHL

Skahan has a lot going in his favor. He’s nearly 6-4, he’s quite a good skater for a big man, he’s hard to play against defensively and shows some offensive touch, too. Skahan will be a big part of the program next season. I wouldn’t call him the most natural or instinctive puck-mover in the world, but I think he’s good enough there given all his other positives.

13. Vancouver Canucks: Berkly Catton, C, Spokane-WHL

Catton was the No. 1 pick in his WHL Bantam Draft and was a top rookie in the WHL this past season. He’s an excellent skater, displaying high-end edge work and quickness for the pro level. He combines that with very good hands and vision and a pass-first mentality. The only real knock on his game is his diminutive frame.

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14. New York Islanders: Sacha Boisvert, C, Muskegon-USHL

Boisvert is an exciting offensive talent. He’s a 6-foot-2 center who can skate but also has very good puck skills, playmaking instincts and is a shot threat from the faceoff dots. He can make difficult plays with the puck at full flight and has the pace in his game to create versus pros. He can be a bit perimeter at times, but Boisvert’s effort is good enough for me given all the other positives in his game.

15. Ottawa Senators: Henry Mews, RHD, Ottawa-OHL

Mews is an interesting top defense prospect. He’s below-average sized, is a good, not great skater, and while he has a lot of offense I wouldn’t call him dynamic. Then why is he ranked so highly? For one, his hockey sense is excellent. Mews makes a ton of tough plays with the puck and creates a lot with his passing. He has an excellent shot, and can run a power play well. He’s not that big, but he’s a competitor who brings it every night and a player coaches can rely on in all situations. There is a chance his game may be too vanilla and gets picked apart in his draft season, though.

16. Seattle Kraken: Cole Hutson, LHD, U.S. NTDP-USHL

Cole Hutson has a lot of similarities to his older brother, Lane, the Montreal draftee. He’s a very skilled and intelligent defenseman who can make a ton of plays and run a power play at a high level. He’s quite undersized though, and while he skates well, he doesn’t have amazing feet for his size.

17. Buffalo Sabres: Michael Hage, C, Chicago-USHL

Hage missed most of the season due to injury, but when healthy he looked very good in the USHL. He has excellent skill to go with a strong skating stride. He’s able to make tough offensive plays with pace and is a natural scorer. I’d have liked to see more games out of him, but given what I did see I’m comfortable rating him as a top prospect.

18. Pittsburgh Penguins: Zayne Parekh, RHD, Saginaw-OHL

Parekh put up huge numbers as a rookie in the OHL, recording 21 goals in the regular season. He’s a very skilled and creative offensive player. He has the skating to get up into attacks, the hands to beat opponents, the vision to hit seams and make tough plays and a great point shot, too. Parekh’s issue will be his frame and overall defensive play which worries some scouts.

Zayne Parekh restores the @SpiritHockey lead! 😤

The star rookie defenceman silences the Flint faithful with a breakaway goal late in the second period 🤫#OHLPlayoffs | #SAGvsFLNT pic.twitter.com/D38igQ5z5N

— Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) April 9, 2023

19. Calgary Flames: E. J. Emery, RHD, U.S. NTDP-USHL

Emery isn’t the flashiest defenseman, but he is a big, highly mobile defender who can make a lot of stops and projects to have solid first-pass offense as a pro. He’s also able to create some chances with his feet. He will play big minutes for the program next season.

20. Minnesota Wild: Simon Zether, C, Rogle-Sweden Jr.

Zether is a 6-2 right-shot center who has very good puck skills, can create offense for others and works hard at both ends of the ice. His only downside is a heavy skating stride, but otherwise, there are a lot of appealing pro elements in his game.

21. Los Angeles Kings: Maxim Velikov, RW, CSKA-MHL

Velikov is a fast and highly skilled winger who can create offense at an NHL pace. He has good creativity and played with Russia’s U20 team this past spring.

22. Philadelphia Flyers (via Florida Panthers): Karl Sterner, RW, Frolunda-Sweden Jr.

Sterner is a big winger with strong skill and offensive instincts. He can use his 6-3 frame to get to the inside to create at the net, and also has a strong shot from range. His footspeed is the main issue in his NHL projection.

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23. Chicago (via Tampa Bay Lightning): Anthony Cristoforo, RHD, Windsor-OHL

Cristoforo is a very talented defenseman who scored 40 points as a rookie in the OHL. He has excellent hands and vision to go with his strong skating ability. He makes a lot of plays and can do so with pace. The thing that will hold him back is his smaller frame and how well he’ll be able to defend in the NHL.

24. Dallas Stars: Adam Jiricek, RHD, Plzen-Czechia

The younger brother of Columbus’ No. 6 pick David Jiricek is a very good prospect in his own right who got games at the top Czech level this season. He’s not as big or physical as his brother, but he’s a better skater. Adam Jiricek is also a very good playmaker from the blue line.

25. New York Rangers: Zeev Buium, LHD, U.S. NTDP-USHL

Buium is a strong skating defenseman who can make a lot of plays and run a power play. He often ran PP1 for a strong U.S. NTDP group this past season. The younger brother of Detroit pick Shai Buium is an undersized defenseman though, and whether he can defend versus pros is a question.

26. Vegas Golden Knights: Tomas Lavoie, RHD, Cape Breton-QMJHL

Lavoie, the No. 1 pick in his QMJHL draft, is a 6-3 defenseman who can move quite well. His offensive touch doesn’t dazzle, but the hope is he can have secondary offense as a pro to couple with those great athletic tools.

27. Carolina Hurricanes: Liam Greentree, RW, Windsor-OHL

Greentree had a successful rookie OHL season being an important part of a top team. He’s a highly skilled winger with good hockey sense and finishing ability to go in a 6-2 frame, but his skating is just so-so.

28. Edmonton Oilers: Adam Jecho, RW, Taapara-Finland Jr.

Jecho is a 6-3 winger with skill and some goal-scoring touch. He’s been touted for a few years but I haven’t seen him take steps in his development of late. He has talent but his game can be a little sleepy and lacks pace.

29. New Jersey Devils: Daniil Ustinkov, LHD, ZSC-Swiss Jr.

Ustinkov, a player of dual Russian/Swiss nationality that has represented Switzerland, had a good season in junior and even got a few games with ZSC’s big club. He’s a mobile defenseman with good skill. I wouldn’t call his offensive touch great but he can make plays and do so with pace. Whether he can make stops is what he will need to prove.

30. Detroit Red Wings (via Boston Bruins): Maxim Masse, RW, Chicoutimi-QMJHL

Masse has a ton of individual skill and is a goal-scoring threat from range. He had a big first season in the QMJHL scoring at a point-per-game clip. He has decent size, but his skating stride is a notable concern for the NHL and I’d like to see him get inside more too.

31. Toronto Maple Leafs: Tanner Howe, LW, Regina-WHL

Howe has put up major numbers in the WHL — he scored 85 points this season to be exact — with the obvious caveat that he had a little someone named Connor Bedard playing with him often. This is not too dissimilar from a debate we had about Alex DeBrincat and Connor McDavid/Dylan Strome being his center in junior. I wouldn’t say Howe is as dynamic as his scoring numbers suggest, but he’s a strong skating forward with good skill, hockey sense and compete.

32. Colorado Avalanche: Yegor Surin, C, Lokomotiv-MHL

Surin is a very talented forward albeit one who is undersized. He’s an excellent skater with a high skill level and a very good offensive hockey sense. He looked quite good at the Russian junior level but, at 5-10, whether his game will translate versus men is the main question.

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic. Photos of Macklin Celebrini and Cole Eiserman: Jari Pestelacci / Eurasia Sport Images / Getty Images)

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