When your team is losing in the fashion that the Chicago Blackhawks are losing; as fans, we start to ask the question "where is the help coming from".
For the past year it seems likely that two things were certain; 1. That Macklin Celebrini was going to be drafted 1st overall in 2024 and that 2. The Chicago Blackhawks again were going to be drafting in the top 5.
If both of these things line up, then what would the Blackhawks be getting in Macklin Celebrini? Let's take a look at what kind of player he is and more importantly how he projects in the NHL as his game expands.
Like Connor Bedard, Macklin Celebrini is a native of the Vancouver area. The Canadian center is between 6'0-6'1 (depending on the source) and between 185-190lbs. The left shot forward is currently back in Boston as his WJC bid went awry for Team Canada in Sweden. The freshman Terrrier is on a rabid pace with 25 points in his first 15 NCAA games.
Before landing with BU, Celebrini (much like Adam Fantilli's path) played for the Chicago Steel (USHL) where he proved to be the best playmaker of the 2024 class (86 points in 50 games). It goes further back than that though as Celebrini has been viewed as a top prospect since he first became a teenager. From 2019-2022 playing in the U14 AAA and then the USHS-Prep league, Celebrini would average a goal per game in well over a 100 matchups (SSM).
It was his exceptional offensive IQ combined with hand eye coordination in-between the dots that seperated him from the rest of his peers. The ability to re-direct, anticipate rebounds, and cut inwards for scoring chances pronounced him as a special goal scorer from the center position early in his development.
Celebrini as a skater has improved over the years. however most scouts and myself would label him as a quick skater though not a fast skater (as to say end to end speed). It's his ability to anticipate turnovers and where the puck will be in the seconds ahead that make him a consensus #1 player (by all 8 major publications as of this writing).
As you can see above, TSN released a "best of" WJC Macklin Celebrini 5 min package video. In the video you can see where Celebrini likes to operate most and how he gets into his scoring positions. He shows a good quick wrister and a deft ability to get pucks through when near the crease. He also shows the knack for making the correct pass on line rushes in lieu of the belief it will get back to him.
These instincts are second to none in the class, however I do not believe they will "instantly" carryover into the NHL as an 18 year old. As a young for the class prospect, Celebrini (6-1 190 most likely) will only sport average size heading into his new team (Ducks, Sharks, Hawks, whomever) with decent though not blazing straight line speed. The NHL has held Connor Bedard to the tune of 33 points so far (albeit on a bad roster). So where does Celebrini fit in?
In this video, "Mack" is taking on the defending NCAA champions Quinnipiac. He's physical, backchecks hard, and loves to get the puck near the net. Less flashy than some, Celebrini shows elite compete levels when up against great competition.
In the last draft there were 3 clear cut #1 players in Connor Bedard, Leo Carlsson, and Adam Fantilli. Each player, in different ways, is showing that they would have gone #1 in most draft seasons. I believe Celebrini would have likely gone 4th behind them if he were in last years class (even with this year being scouted). This doesn't mean he isn't a worthy top selection, it just means those 3 are exceptional.
When all is said and done, the franchise that takes Celebrini #1 in 2024 is going to get a player with elite anticipation, excellent compete, and scoring instincts that can't be taught. Celebrini, just 17, is proving to be a force in-between the dots and near the crease. His hand-eye ability is going to net him points at the NHL level early in his career.
The 2024 draft will see the Chicago Blackhawks draft in the top 5, I think that reality has all but set in for most (especially with the injuries of late). If it's Celebrini at #1 for Chicago, the "known" is evident at this stage; that Macklin Celebrini projects to becoming a #1 center for an NHL franchise, even if it takes him a few years to figure out his physical maturation in comparison with how the league will scout him and play to cutting off his strengths.
If it isn't Celebrini, and the likes of Sam Dickinson, Ivan Demidov, Arytom Levshunov, or Berkly Catton arrive in Chicago the wait and unknowns start to increase. Not that any of those players (or others) aren't projected good players... however so far it appears the next draft has only one player vying to go 1st overall.