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Home / Toronto / Sport / 2024 NHL Entry Draft highlights: Celebrini goes first overall, Leafs draft a centre, acquire rights to veteran D Chris Tanev

2024 NHL Entry Draft highlights: Celebrini goes first overall, Leafs draft a centre, acquire rights to veteran D Chris Tanev

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The 2024 NHL Entry Draft took place on June 28-29, 2024, at the innovative Sphere in Las Vegas. This unique venue, known for its 16k resolution wraparound LED screen and immersive visual environment, provided a spectacular setting for the draft. This was the first sports event and live television broadcast hosted at the Sphere, making it a landmark event for both the NHL and Las Vegas. The first pick went to the San Jose Sharks.

1. San Jose Sharks select Macklin Celebrini first overall

Macklin Celebrini, the top-ranked North American skater, was selected first overall by the San Jose Sharks. Celebrini had an outstanding freshman season at Boston University, finishing third in the NCAA with 64 points (32 goals, 32 assists) in 38 games. He became the youngest player ever to win the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in NCAA ice hockey. He is the fourth player from Boston University to win the award, joining notable alumni such as Jack Eichel (2015), Matt Gilroy (2009), and Chris Drury (1998).

Despite being the youngest player in NCAA hockey this season, turning 18 on June 13, Celebrini was named both the rookie of the year and player of the year in Hockey East. He is only the fourth player to achieve this feat, following in the footsteps of Jack Eichel (2015), Paul Kariya (1993), and Brian Leetch (1987).

Born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Celebrini honed his skills in various top-tier hockey programs. He played Tier 1 AAA hockey for the San Jose Junior Sharks, prep school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, and in the United States Hockey League with Chicago before joining Boston University.

“He competes with himself, competes with others, but that’s just how he is,” said BU coach Jay Pandolfo.“I think that’s what makes him a special player, but I think that’s going to serve him very well in the National Hockey League.”

The Sharks’ selection of Celebrini confirms what was widely expected since the draft lottery. His combination of skill and work ethic draws comparisons to former Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. 

Celebrini’s game is highly well-rounded, marked by impressive statistics and a relentless commitment to backchecking. He excels in faceoffs, leveraging his strength to win draws against older competition. As the Sharks’ top pick, he is expected to become a key player, contributing even when he’s not scoring. Although he might not possess the same raw skill as Connor Bedard, his overall game as a center is exceptional. Celebrini’s ability to compete against older players at just 17 years old underscores his potential, making his future development over the next five years an exciting prospect for the Sharks and their fans.

Maple Leafs acquire rights to Chris Tanev from Stars

https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/1807135807956009054

The Toronto Maple Leafs struck a draft-floor deal on Saturday at the Las Vegas Sphere, trading a 2026 seventh-round pick and the expiring contract of arbitration-eligible prospect Max Ellis to the Dallas Stars for the rights to negotiate a new contract with Chris Tanev over the next 44 hours.

Once Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving learned that Tanev, 34, would not be re-signing with the Stars and was eager to explore free agency on July 1, he acted quickly.

“We wanted to jump the queue and get to him before free agency started,” Treliving said. “I know the player well. We’ll get to work on it now.”

Treliving has long admired Tanev since his time in Calgary and sees him as the heart-and-soul defender the Leafs need. The right-shot, GTA native can stabilize a risk-taking left defenseman, handle tough defensive assignments, and excel in penalty killing.

Health Concerns and Contract Details

Tanev’s health is a concern due to his gritty play style. Additionally, Tanev desires a long-term contract, a risky proposition given his age and the wear on his body. With plenty of suitors, including Ottawa and Vancouver, the Leafs are considering a seven-year max-term deal to keep Tanev’s cap hit low.

“He’s just an elite defensive player. We talk about offensive players seeing plays early; he does the same thing on the defensive side,” Treliving said. “An absolute warrior. He’s a culture carrier for your room. Despite his age, he remains one of the top shutdown defensemen in the league and embodies everything you want in a teammate.”

Treliving had previously tried to acquire Tanev before the 2024 deadline, only to see him shipped to Dallas, where he played a key role in their run to the Western Conference Final.

Ben Danford, Maple Leafs’ first pick in the 2024 Entry Draft

“My dad owns a construction company, and I can operate heavy machinery. Excavators, backhoes, stuff like that,” says Ben Danford, the newest member ofthe Toronto Maple Leafs farm system. “It’s fun. I’ve been doing it since I was 13.”

Danford, 18, is a big, young man from the small town of Madoc, Ontario, with a population of just 2,078. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound right-shot defenseman grew up a Maple Leafs fan. On a glitzy night in Las Vegas, his boyhood dream came true when the Leafs traded down and selected him in the draft.

https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/1807060775468757067

Danford’s family — his dad, mom, and two older sisters — celebrated inside the Sphere as the 18-year-old made his way to the stage and donned the jersey of the team he had supported since he was four years old. “Feels great. I mean, I’ve been a lifelong Leafs fan, so it makes it more special I got drafted by them,” Danfordsaid with a smile. “I was a big Kessel guy. He scored a lot of goals. As a little kid, you like guys who score a lot of goals.”

https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/1806893594973802748

Toronto’s GM Brad Treliving likes big defensemen who play with intelligence and competitiveness. Considering the club’s weak right side on the blueline, Treliving and chief amateur scout Wes Clark targeted the Oshawa Generals defender, who ranked lower on most teams’ draft boards. “He’s a real intelligent player, real competitive guy. A right-shot defenseman. He’s a guy our staff was really focused on, and that’s why we traded down. Took a chance,” Treliving told Sportsnet’s Elliotte FriedmanHigh character kid. Moves well. He’s just scratching the surface of what he can be.”

While some experts ranked Danford outside the first round, Clark has had success in finding gems deeper in the draft, such as Matthew Knies at 57th, Fraser Minten at 38th, and OHL MVP Easton Cowan last year at 28th.

Danford describes himself as a two-way defenseman who excels in all situations. A strong skater with great hockey sense, he posted 32 assists and a plus-27 rating as an OHL sophomore in 2023-24. He recognizes that his offense can grow, having scored just once in the regular season but four times in Oshawa’s 21-game playoff run. “I compete hard,” he said. “I block shots. I do anything for the team to win.”

The Rest of the Top 6

2. Chicago Blackhawks — Artyom Levshunov, D, Michigan State (NCAA)

Artyom Levshunov, a right-handed defenseman (6-2, 205), had an impressive freshman season at Michigan State. He was named Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, earning spots on the All-Big 10 First Team and All-Freshman Team. At just 18 years old, Levshunov was the third-youngest player in men’s college hockey. He ranked second among NCAA freshmen defensemen with 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 38 games and led the Big 10 with a plus-27 rating.

Michigan State coach Adam Nightingale praised Levshunov’s dual offensive and defensive abilities, highlighting his value on both sides of the puck. Levshunov is expected to be a top-pair defenseman and could decide to either return to NCAA hockey or jump straight to the NHL.

With Calder Trophy winner Connor Bedard from the 2023 draft, the Blackhawks now focus on bolstering their defense. Levshunov’s NHL-ready size and skills make him a key piece for Chicago’s future, joining other promising defensemen like Kevin Korchinski and Alex Vlasic.

3. Anaheim Ducks — Beckett Sennecke, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

Beckett Sennecke, an 18-year-old forward (6-3, 182), showcased his skills with 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) in 63 regular-season games for Oshawa in the OHL. Known for his size, strength, and hockey sense, Sennecke also excelled in the playoffs with 10 goals in 16 games.

The Ducks made a somewhat surprising pick, but Sennecke projects as a top-six winger. His strong skating, ability to make plays in tight spaces, and powerful shot make him a valuable addition to Anaheim’s young core, including centers like Mason McTavish, Leo Carlsson, and Trevor Zegras.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets — Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat (WHL)

Cayden Lindstrom (6-3, 213) remained a top forward prospect despite injuries that limited him to 32 regular-season games, where he scored 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists). Lindstrom’s speed, goal-scoring ability, and physical play make him a standout player.

The Blue Jackets are confident that Lindstrom’s injuries are behind him. With his impressive track background and competitive edge, Lindstrom is poised to be a key player for Columbus, forming a strong center duo with Adam Fantilli.

5. Montreal Canadiens — Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg Jr. (RUS-JR)

Ivan Demidov (6-0, 192) is known for his exceptional skating and puck-handling abilities. He led his team in the MHL with 60 points (23 goals, 37 assists) in 30 games and played briefly in the KHL. Some scouts consider Demidov the second-most talented player in the draft. His dynamic skill set and potential to develop further in the KHL make him an exciting prospect for the Canadiens, bringing a much-needed wow factor to the team.

6. Utah Hockey Club — Tij Iginla, C, Kelowna (WHL)

Tij Iginla (6-0, 191) led the Rockets with 47 goals and was second with 84 points in 64 games. His strong shot and hands around the net, combined with his competitiveness and hockey sense, make him a top prospect.

Iginla, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, brings elite shooting and hockey IQ to Utah’s emerging core. Expected to move back to center next season, Iginla will be a significant addition to Utah’s young roster, including players like Clayton Keller, Dylan Guenther, and Logan Cooley.

Final Thoughts

The 2024 NHL Entry Draft will be remembered not only for the selection of top prospects like Macklin Celebrini but also for the unique venue and the memorable moments it created. The Sphere in Las Vegas set a new standard for hosting such events, and the excitement surrounding the draft picks promises an intriguing season ahead. The Maple Leafs’ selection of Ben Danford, coupled with their strategic moves, highlights their commitment to building a robust team for the future. As fans and analysts look forward to the development of these young talents, the draft’s impact will resonate for years to come.

by Myles Shane

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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