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Sharks select BU’s Macklin Celebrini with No. 1 pick in NHL draft




NHL

“I’ve dreamed about this moment ever since I was a kid, and for it to come true, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

18-year-old Macklin Celebrini became just the fourth freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player this past season. AP Photo/Steve Marcus

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The San Jose Sharks added a foundational piece to their rebuilding plan by choosing Boston University center Macklin Celebrini with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday.

Celebrini’s selection came as no surprise after the 18-year-old became just the fourth freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. He did so as the nation’s youngest player, too, finishing second with 34 goals and third with 64 points in 38 games.

The 6-foot, 200-pound player from North Vancouver, British Columbia, already has ties to the Bay Area. Celebrini played for the Junior Sharks program after his father, Rick, was hired to be the Golden State Warriors’ sports medicine director.

“Just a surreal feeling,” Celebrini said in becoming the Sharks’ first No. 1 overall pick. “I’ve dreamed about this moment ever since I was a kid, and for it to come true, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Celebrini was undecided on whether he will return to BU for a second year, but he deepens a talented prospect pool on a Sharks team in the midst of its longest playoff drought, now spanning five years.

The Chicago Blackhawks took Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov of Belarus with the second pick. This marked the third draft to have college players to go 1-2, and first since 2021 when Michigan teammates Owen Power and Matty Beniers were chosen first and second.

Levshunov became the fourth overall player from Belarus to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft, and first since first since Montreal took forward Andrei Kostitsyn 10th in 2003. He also became the earliest selected player from Belarus chosen after defenseman Ruslan Salei went ninth to Anaheim in 1996.

Anaheim followed with what was considered a surprise pick in selecting Oshawa forward Beckett Sennecke, who could be seen mouthing “Oh, my God,” to his father upon hearing former Ducks star Scott Niedermayer announce the pick. Sennecke was ranked 12th among North American players by NHL Central Scouting after finishing with 27 goals and 68 points in 63 games last season in the Ontario Hockey League.

Columbus followed by selecting Medicine Hat center Cayden Lindstrom at No. 4.

Montreal created a stir by having French-Canadian pop star Celine Dion announce their selection of Russian forward Ivan Demidov with the fifth pick.

The Utah Hockey Club was set to pick sixth after the franchise relocated from Arizona to Salt Lake City in April.

Celebrini’s selection was announced by former Sharks star Joe Thornton — drafted No. 1 by Boston in 1997. Thornton opened by saying, “The San Jose Sharks are proud to select from Boston University,” before briefly pausing with a smile, and then said Celebrini’s name and pointing to him in the stands.

“I’m super excited he made the pick,” Celebrini said. “Obviously, a Sharks legend and an NHL legend, so that was real exciting.”

The draft featured the added spectacle of being held at the year-old Sphere, a globe-shaped venue over-looking the Las Vegas strip and featuring video screens on the inside and outside of its structure.

The 32 teams were gathered at tables beneath the wrap-around screen covering almost three-quarters of the curved wall broadcasting scenes from the draft to the crowd overlooking the floor and seated the multi-deck facility. The draft opened with the screen featuring pictures of more than 100 of the eligible prospects.

A small stage was erected in the middle of the floor, where Commissioner Gary Bettman was joined by teams to announce the selections.

Celebrini failed to register a point in just six games at BU. His production accelerated over the second half of the season by combining for 22 goals and 39 points in his final 17 games in helping the Terriers reach the Frozen Four, which they lost in the semifinal to eventual champion Denver.

An NHL Central Scouting report referred to him as being “a strong skater with fluid stride, elusive speed and quickness. … The go-to for one-timers on the power play. Plays a heads-up complete game.”

Whenever Celebrini turns pro upon consulting with his family, the Sharks and BU, he’ll join a Sharks’ youth movement that includes their two first-round picks last year, forwards Will Smith and OHL forward Quentin Musty. Then there’s the Swedish duo of Filip Bystedt, San Jose’s 2022 first-round pick, who made his minor-league debut last season, and William Eklund, who has 18 goals and 52 points in 97 NHL games since being drafted seventh in ’21.

“Having the first overall pick, it’s a big moment for the organization, to have someone hopefully that can be a big part of our core and play here for a long, long time,” third-year GM Mike Grier said earlier this week.

“It’s definitely doing a good job of laying (the foundation). I don’t know if it’s finishing the foundation,” he added. “It’s definitely an important time, an important draft, but we still got some work to do to kind of round things out and keep building up the prospect pool.”





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