NHL Draft

Looking ahead at the 2024 NHL Draft’s top 12 prospects

The 2024 NHL Draft looks to be another one loaded with high-end talent and exciting prospects. There are some potential franchise forwards at the top of the draft, but the first round looks to be littered with good defencemen. With surprise teams finding themselves at the bottom of the league, fans are flocking to the draft rankings to see just who might be on the board for their teams. Let’s take a look at some of the names that will be drafted early next June.

#1 Macklin Celebrini, F, Boston University (NCAA)

Similar to Connor Bedard leading up to the 2023 draft, Macklin Celebrini is a name we have been hearing for a couple of years now as one of the top prospects eligible for the 2024 draft. Celebrini is an intelligent play-driving forward who has an excellent shot but is not afraid to go to the dirty areas. He also has great poise for his age and is a dangerous playmaker. He currently has eight goals and three assists through six games.

Celebrini is the consensus number-one pick in any ranking you’ll find, and for good reason. The team that selects first overall will be getting a game-breaking talent and likely a franchise forward to build around.

#2 Cole Eiserman, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

Cole Eiserman is widely considered to be the consolation prize for the team that does not get to select Celebrini. Of all the rankings I looked at, only EliteProspects.com has him ranked lower than second (they have him third). Eiserman is an elite goal-scorer, likely the best in this draft class, and can play at high speeds which bodes well for transitioning to the NHL.

Five(!) years ago, Cole Caufield set the USNTDP record for most goals by a player in a single season with 72 in 64 games. Eiserman came very close to breaking that record last season but came just shy with 69 in 62 games between the U17 and U18 teams. This year, he has nine goals through just six games and is on pace to break Caufield’s record. Eiserman should be another franchise player a team can build around, and that’s not a bad consolation prize!

#3 Ivan Demidov, C/RW, Russia

Regarded as a creative player with a ton of speed and skill, Ivan Demidov is currently considered to be the next best player. No rankings I looked at have him lower than third. He drives the offence, as evidenced by his 19 goals and 62 points through 41 games in the MHL last season.

Demidov has split time between KHL (four games played), VHL (one GP), and MHL (two GP) to start the year and has failed to register a point thus far. Once he finds some stability, the points will surely follow.

With a December birthday, Demidov is on the older side of first-year-eligible draft prospects. He also has a contract in the KHL that lasts through the 2024–25 season, so we won’t be seeing him jump into the NHL immediately even if he is ready. That said, the wait could be worth it as he could end up being a top-line scorer at the NHL level.

#4 Artyom Levshunov, D, Michigan State Univ. (NCAA)

Artyom Levshunov ranks anywhere in the four to six range, but I like him at the high end of that range, right after the big three. He’s an offence-first defenceman who made great improvements in his defensive game in the USHL last season. He skates well, can move the puck, and his shot is a real scoring threat. The fact that he’s right-handed will only boost his value in the eyes of NHL general managers.

Levshunov currently has three goals and seven points through eight games. Last season, his first in North America, he played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL and amassed 13 goals and 42 points in 62 games.

His skill set and ability to adapt could help him become a top-pair two-way defenceman at the NHL level.

#5 Berkly Catton, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

With no disrespect intended, the Spokane Chiefs are home to no notable players, yet Berkly Catton has managed to consistently produce. Last season he scored 23 goals and 55 points in 63 games, and so far this season, he has seven goals and 18 points through 12 games.

Catton reads plays at a high level, has great speed, has the hands to play in tight spaces, and is reliable on the defensive side of the puck. Listed at 5’11”, 163 lbs, NHL teams may shy away from his size early in the first round, but the talent is certainly there for him to be a top-six forward in the NHL.

#6 Sam Dickinson, D, London Knights (OHL)

Sam Dickinson is a low-risk, high-reward bet. He’s a great skater with a very high hockey IQ. His offensive game isn’t his bread and butter, but he does have a good shot and makes smart plays. With a June birthday, he’s on the younger side of draft-eligible prospects, and his offensive game has already taken great strides since last season.

Dickinson is up to three goals and 10 points through 12 contests this year, which is nearly half of the totals he put up through 62 games last season (nine and 23 respectively). His floor could end up being a reliable top-four defenceman in the NHL who sees some powerplay time.

#7 Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

Cayden Lindstrom is a big kid. He is listed at 6’5”, 205 lbs and is very good at using that size to his advantage to protect the puck. I tend to have reservations when looking at big players dominating the Canadian Hockey League, but Lindstrom’s size, combined with good puck skills and surprisingly good speed (for someone his size) make him an intriguing option. He’s also not afraid to go to the dirty areas, and we know how highly NHL general managers value that.

Lindstrom has 22 points in 14 games which leads his team and is good for eighth in the WHL. His 13 goals also lead his team and have him tied for fourth in the WHL. He could very well end up as a solid second line centre.

#8 Aron Kiviharju, D, HIFK (Liiga)

Draft rankings are all over the place with Aron Kiviharju, with the only consistency being that he should be a first-round pick. He is one of those players that’s just fun to watch. Kiviharju is excellent in transition, given his incredible hockey IQ and high-level skating and puck skills.

He has one goal and two points through seven games in the Liiga this season, which is a goal more and a point less than he managed through 22 games in his rookie season last year. Kiviharju has the potential to be a top-pair, top power play defenceman, but it is also possible he settles in as a top-four power play quarterback. Either way, I see him running a top power play unit.

#9 Konsta Helenius, RW, Jukurit (Liiga)

Konsta Helenius is a smaller player who plays a bigger game. He uses his speed to forecheck hard; he’s often the first forward deep in the offensive zone. He has excellent hockey IQ and a high-level vision and playmaking allow him to find open teammates and rack up assists while still being a threat to score. Helenius has five goals and 10 points in 17 games this season, which is just a point shy of his total through 33 games last season.

Helenius’ skillset projects him likely becoming a top-six forward in the NHL.

#10 Adam Jiricek, D, HC Plzeň (Czechia)

Adam Jiricek is the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets’ defenceman David Jiricek, who was selected sixth overall in 2022. So, what does this mean for Adam? Absolutely nothing! Remember Fedor Fedorov? Joel Lundqvist? Steve Kariya? Jiricek has yet to record a point so far this season, but that’s likely to change sooner rather than later.

Jiricek is a mobile two-way defenceman who has good poise for his age, very good vision, and loves to shoot from the blue line. He likes to activate from the blueline as well, and at times he can be a little too aggressive, but that’s something any team who drafts him can work on with him. He also protects the puck well when he has it on his stick and positions himself well on the defensive side.

Jiricek projects as a top-four two-way defenceman at the NHL level.

#11 Henry Mews, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Henry Mews is a player I think could end up being a top 10 pick and maybe even push for top five. He’s a dynamic defenceman with elite skating, hockey IQ, and puck skills. He’s the type of player you want running the power play, but he’s also responsible defensively. Not to be forgotten is he also has a very good shot.

In his rookie season in the OHL, Mews scored 12 goals and 31 points in 55 games. This year, he leads his team in points from defencemen with six through 10 games. Mews’ ceiling is sky-high, and he could develop into a number one defenceman who’s relied on heavily in all situations.

#12 Anton Silayev, D, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL)

There is a lot of talk that when all is said and done, Anton Silayev could be a top five pick, and I see why. He’s 6’7”, skates fairly well, and makes good reads in both the offensive and defensive zones. In his own zone, he has a good defensive stick and isn’t afraid to use his big frame to intimidate his opponents. At the other end, he doesn’t shy away from pinching in deep as he has the ability to recover defensively.

As a rookie in the KHL this year, Silayev has two goals and eight points in 25 games. His size, intelligence, and skating are his best attributes, and if he can continue to improve, he could become a top-pair defenceman in the NHL. The reason I have him outside the top 10 is I can also see him topping out as a number four or five defenceman since I’m not convinced he’ll put up big point totals in the NHL.

Another excellent draft class

Honourable mentions go out to:

  • Terik Parascak, RW, Prince George Cougars (WHL): first full season in the WHL and leads all draft-eligible skaters with 29 points in 15 games
  • Tanner Howe, LW, Regina Pats (WHL): 22 points in 16 games; third full season in the WHL
  • Michael Hage, C, Chicago Steel (USHL): leads his team with eight points through 10 games
  • Tij Iginla, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL): why wouldn’t we talk about him, especially given his hot start to the year with 13 goals and 21 points in 14 games

Teams looking for defencemen should have no problem finding them in the draft this year, but there are also a lot of talented forwards to go around. With two to three franchise forwards at the top and some silky defencemen spread throughout the first round, the theme of this draft seems to be offence. The burning question: will the Calgary Flames draft Tij Iginla?

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