Sportsnet’s 2024 NHL Draft Prospect Rankings: First Edition

Sam Cosentino breaks down his first edition of who he believes will be taken at the top of the first round of the 2024 draft, including, Macklin Celbrini, Cole Eiserman, and Ivan Demidov.

Connor Bedard went wire-to-wire in our 2023 NHL Draft Rankings. The exceptional status player produced amazing numbers at every level, and in every event, making for an anti-climatic first overall pick in Nashville. 

The early returns on the 2024 draft class have Boston University’s Macklin Celebrini as the front runner. Everyone in the scouting world seems to have Celebrini as the number one in the early going.

Similar to 2023, where Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli filled the next two spots, scouts feel very good about what follows Celebrini. Winger Cole Eiserman of the USNTDP has elite goal-scoring ability, while Ivan Demidov is reminiscent of Matvei Michkov minus the hype Michkov created at the 2021 World U-18 Championship. 

Eight defencemen went in round one of the 2023 draft, and that number projects to hit double digits in 2024.

In terms of diversity, this draft class projects to look similar to 2023.  It’s another down year in the QMJHL. Only 12 players from the CHL’s eastern-most loop were taken in Nashviile, and none in round one. The OHL featured a total of 35 selections last year, but this year there looks to be an uptick in higher end talent coming out of Ontario. The WHL looks to be strong once again, with several players having gotten out of the gate quickly. 

The USNTDP has seen an average of 14 players selected off its roster over the past five years. That number will be down a bit this year and, after Eiserman, there is a drop-off in elite talent. The USHL has seen gains in each of the past three drafts, and this year should offer a few first round picks.

Russian-born players are always interesting to track. Teams are still finding a way to scout Russian players and hold them in high regard, despite the ongoing geopolitical issues. There are a number of elite Russian players available in this class, with as many as three ranked in most top 10s.

Noticeably absent from our October rankings are members of Sweden’s various leagues. In fact, the highest ranked player in Sweden right now is Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, who isn’t even from Sweden, but rather neighbouring Norway.  Early projections for Swedes in the 2023 draft class were also low, but by the end of the season seven players from the country were first-round NHL picks.

Finnish-trained players also dot our initial top-32 list, and will emerge as the season continues. 

It’s safe to say that the effect COVID-19 had on player development still impacts this class, albeit on a much smaller scale. With that in mind, it will be interesting to track the later-round picks from the 2024 draft beyond the typical three-year window we’ve historically viewed these things before 2020. In the long-term, I believe there will be a number of players taken in the later rounds who will emerge as late bloomers. 

All told, it’s still early, but here’s our October rankings:

1. Macklin Celebrini, C, Boston University (NCAA): After lighting up the USHL and the U18s, he has fit comfortably on to BU’s top line.  

2. Cole Eiserman, LW, USNTDP: Well on his way to re-writing the goal-scoring record books for the USNTDP. He has 13 goals in nine games already this season.

3. Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): Highlight reel waiting to happen. High-flying winger who handles the puck extremely well with speed. 

4. Berkly Catton, C, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Remarkably consistent effort and production in leading Canada to bronze at the U18s. Off to a hot start in Spokane.

5. Artyom Levshunov, D, Michigan State University (NCAA): Mobile big man on the back end who has plenty of stick skills to project as an offensive defenceman.

6. Sam Dickinson, D, London Knights (OHL): Is on a similar path to Evan Bouchard in terms of the responsibility he’s earned at a young age in the lauded London program.

7. Anton Silayev, D, Torpedo (KHL): Plenty of raw skill, but decision making and agility are still a work in progress. Eye-popping start to the KHL season.

8. Adam Jiricek, D, HC Plzen (Czechia): Capable two-way defender who leans a little more offence. Reads the action well and will play with some risk in the offensive zone.

9. Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, RW, Mora (Allsvenskan): Physical, two-way forward who is bouncing between the Allsvenskan and J20 leagues for Mora in Sweden.

10. Ryder Ritchie, C, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL): Son of former NHLer Byron, Ryder is creating his own path from being named WHL Rookie of the Year, to winning gold in the summer at the Hlinka-Gretzky and most recently being named WHL Player of the Week.

11. Konsta Helenius, RW, Jokerit (Liiga): Shows great ability to evade defenders with tight turns and deft puck skills. Quick to anticipate and retrieve loose pucks.

12. Zayne Parekh, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Offensive instincts are next level. He may be best in class at his position from the offensive zone blue line in.

13. Aron Kiviharju, D, HIFK (Liiga): Gained plenty of momentum as a successful underager, but injury setback will slow the momentum until at least the new year.

14. Henry Mews, D, Ottawa 67’s (OHL): His game has remained similar from when he was highly touted out of minor hockey. He’s always around the puck or working hard to get it back. Consistent threat to produce offence on every shift. 

15. Igor Chernyshov, LW, Moscow Dynamo (MHL): Plays a flow game where he’s able to utilize speed and puck skills to create offence without completely abandoning his defensive responsibilities.

16. Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): Handles the puck well for a big man. All the attributes are there to project as a skilled power forward.

17. Trevor Connelly, C, Tri-City Storm (USHL): Dual threat offensive player who was a stand out for USA at the Hlinka-Gretzky where he tied for the tournament lead in scoring.

18. Sacha Boisvert, C, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL): Makes sound decisions with the puck. Shows poise by either finding better scoring lanes or deferring to teammates in a better position.

19. Emil Hemming, RW, TPS (Liiga): Finland’s best player at the Hlinka-Gretzky has been excellent at the U20 level and is holding his own with three goals while playing roughly 10 minutes a game in Liiga play.

20. Carter Yakemchuk, D, Calgary Hitmen (WHL): Has shown plenty of offence in the WHL, yet proved that he could adjust to a more defensive game as well. Plays with edge.

21. Will Skahan, D, USNTDP: Complementary defenceman who skates well and moves the puck accurately and efficiently. Shoots it hard and heavy.

22. EJ Emery, D, USNTDP: UND commit for 2024-25, EJ is the son of former CFLer Eric Emery. Plays a simple game with a defence-first mentality. Offence is developing as is playing with more physicality.

23. Charlie Elick, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Proved he could defend against older competition as a 16-year-old. Looks to have taken a step up offensively in the early going.

24. Zeev Buium, D, U of Denver (NCAA): Active player who uses his great skating ability equally to hold the line in the offensive zone and to get back on pucks defensively.

25. Maxim Masse, RW, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Mid- to close-range scorer who moves well and is a threat off the rush. Captured CHL Rookie of the Year honours last season.

26. Carson Wetsch, RW, Calgary Hitmen (WHL): A versatile player who can be used in match-up situations and provide mid-level offence.

27. Michael Hage, C, Chicago Steel (USHL): Unfortunately, has experienced more adversity than someone his age should have to endure. Following the Adam Fantilli plan as a Toronto area player committed to Michigan by way of USHL Chicago.

28. Cole Hutson, D, USNTDP: Thanks to the immense success of older brother Lane at BU, Cole will be given more attention for his play as opposed to his size.

29. Beckett Sennecke, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL): Skill and compete have developed at a similar pace to his physical growth, which has seen him go from 5-foot-9 in his OHL draft year, to just over 6-foot-2 now. 

30. Liam Greentree, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Plenty to like about this hockey junkie who possesses an above average shot and a high compete level. 

31. Tanner Howe, C, Regina Pats (WHL): Benefitted from playing with Connor Bedard last season, but now creating his own path to stardom thanks to a torrid start in Regina (17 points in 11 games).

32. Terik Parascak, RW, Prince George Cougars (WHL): Out of nowhere, his 12 goals to start the season are second only to Eiserman’s 13 amongst draft eligibles. 

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