Already in the World Juniors, Macklin Celebrini is further cementing his case as the #1 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. The Canadian center is dominating NCAA hockey, become a big fixture in Team Canada's Top 6, and constantly demonstrating skill traits that should translate into the National Hockey League.
In 2023 the Chicago Blackhawks were lucky (11.5%) to go from the 3rd best odds to grab the #1 slot and the right to draft Connor Bedard. The odds of this happening in back to back years is obviously low, however not impossible. What if the Blackhawks (or any host of other teams such as the Sharks, Blue Jackets, Ducks, or Senators) end up drafting 2nd overall? With no clear cut #2 pick behind Celebrini at the moment, it is important to start to get to know these potential #2 picks:
Will it be one of the these 3 defenders:
Sam Dickinson, Artyom Levshunov, and Anton Silayev are all talented blue line prospects that represent players with very high top pairing potential but that doesn't mean they are equal. For me, Dickinson is the safest pick of the 3 as he has the highest floor, is flexible to play either side, and has demonstrated to be a dependable player in all situations. For me, he is easily one of the safer picks with projections as a top pairing defender in this draft. Worthy to go 2nd overall? Typically no, but in a year where the other choices may be gambles it may come to fruition.
Artyom Levshunov has been better than expected at Michigan State, the tall right shot defender is proving that he can be a force as a point man on the power play, make the tape to tape passes, and be physical at times. At a point per game as a freshman defender, it's not understating his progress in the last year coming out of the USHL.
Lastly, Silayev has that rare size to skating trait that is rare to see at a D-1 stage. At a young for the class 17 and already 6-7 and 207lbs, the big left shot shows excellent skating in all directions paired with the willingness to engage in board battles against older competitors in the KHL (10 points in 42 games at age 17 for Torpedo). This type of player has to be considered to go high in the 2024 draft from a sheer rareness perspective. An intriguing prospect that has a chance to finish the year in the KHL strong and be in consideration for the #2 overall selection.
Will it be one of these forwards instead:
Cayden Lindstrom, Ivan Demidov, Cole Eiserman, Konsta Helenius, Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, and Berkly Catton are all talents but at this point are they making seperation from themselves? For me Ivan Demidov was the clear best "talent" behind Celebrini however injuries and size could play a factor into his final selection area. For me though, you can't overlook his skill, edge work, and overall versatility of shot making in his arsenal. The MHL is a tough place to score and so far Demidov has 10 goals (21 points) in just 15 games coming from the KHL.
Does the recent play of Lindstrom in the WHL surplant the diminutive forwards in the eyes of NHL GMs? How can you overlook 27 goals in 32 matchups after all? Yes, he is much bigger and stronger than other 17 year olds (18 in about a month albeit) but will that skill translate or does he have more to his game... better question may be, how can we tell if he has such an advantage in the league he currently plays in?
Are Cole Eiserman and Berkly Catton just gifted goal scoring wings with little depth to offer behind those aspects of play? Will Helenius and Brandsegg-Nygard come to North America and be lost or will their overall games be a step ahead of their peers? These are the questions that NHL GMs are likely gauging as we read here.
For me any team drafting #2 in the upcoming draft is going to have one heck of a tough pick ahead of them. Do they play it safe and take a Sam Dickinson that likely should go 4th or 5th or do they swing for the fences on a Cayden Lindstrom and hope they get a Tage Thompson type of impact center?
Any way you look at it, it's better just to draft #1 and take Macklin Celebrini. Here's hoping the Chicago Blackhawks get lucky two years in a row.