2024 NHL Draft consensus big board: Macklin Celebrini, defensemen lead midseason list – The Athletic

Max BultmanFeb 26, 2024

The 2024 NHL Draft is coming into focus.

We’re still four months out from when teams will descend on the Las Vegas Sphere, but as most junior and college seasons approach the playoffs, the top of the class is certainly coming into view, with Boston University’s Macklin Celebrini emerging as a clear-cut No. 1. But who will be behind him?

As The Athletic compiled its 2024 midseason consensus big board, the answer was far from conclusive. Compiling the composite ranking, though, revealed some of the most divisive, and most unanimously loved, prospects in this class. On defense, for example, there is near unanimous love for Michigan State’s Artyom Levshunov, who finished second on the consensus list, but there are differences of opinion about the rest of what looks like a rare-level defense crop.

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And while Celebrini was a slam dunk pick at No. 1, there was much less agreement on which forwards should follow him, especially in the case of U.S. NTDP winger Cole Eiserman.

This ranking accounts for lists by The Athletic’s own Corey Pronman and Scott Wheeler, as well as Flo Hockey’s Chris Peters (a contributor to The Athletic Hockey Show podcast), as well Bob McKenzie’s midseason draft ranking, which itself is a composite survey of NHL scouts. The hope is that through examining these lists side-by-side, and then all together, we get a better picture of how draft day could go — and a window into the players whose variance has the most potential to shake the whole thing up.

Top defensemen

Rank Player Position Pronman rank Wheeler rank Peters rank McKenzie rank
2 Artyom Levshunov RHD 5 2 2 3
3 Anton Silayev LHD 2 5 4 2
7 Sam Dickinson LHD 7 8 6 7
T9 Carter Yakemchuk RHD 3 12 10 12
T9 Zayne Parekh RHD 10 6 12 9
12 Zeev Buium LHD 12 7 11 13
14 Adam Jiricek RHD 13 17 15 14

This is where the 2024 draft is most interesting.

The strength of the 2024 class was up front, with just three defensemen picked in the top 16. The 2024 draft won’t be a total inversion, with still plenty of forward talent, but the depth of this defense crop is a major differentiator. At midseason, there are seven defensemen ranked in the top 15, with six of them receiving at least one top-10 vote from our rankers.

It’s not inconceivable, either, that after Celebrini, defensemen could make up a significant portion of the top five. Pronman, in particular, has three defenders ranked in that range, and Wheeler has four in his top seven. The question is how to sort them.

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Michigan State blueliner Levshunov ultimately topped the position group on this composite, after receiving second overall rankings from Wheeler and Peters, and a third-place finish on McKenzie’s list. And for good reason: He’s been a force, with 30 points in 32 games as a freshman in the Big Ten. For context, 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power had 16 in 26, in the same conference.

“He loves hockey more than anyone I think I’ve ever met,” Michigan State teammate Red Savage said of Levshunov. “He’s at the rink for, it feels like, 14 hours a day — whether it’s just doing extra, or today I saw him doing finger-tip pushups after our workout, so I was pretty thrown off by that. But he’s just a workhorse, and you understand why he’s doing so good: it’s because he works so hard at it, and I think he deserves everything that he’s getting right now.”

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Levshunov isn’t 6-foot-6, like Power was, but at 6-foot-2 he still has the size to be a complete defenseman at the NHL level.

There may be teams who prefer “unicorn” size, though, and those teams are in luck. The No. 3 player on the consensus list is Anton Silayev, who stands 6-foot-7 and at age 17 has spent the entire season in the KHL, where he’s produced 11 points in 62 games. That’s right in line with what 2024 sixth overall pick Dmitri Simashev did in the same league last season.

Both Silayev and Levshunov ranked in the top five on every individual list for these rankings, so it’s no surprise they finished top three overall, but the depth of this defense crop is real too. CHL blueliners Sam Dickinson (London), Carter Yakemchuk (Calgary) and Zayne Parekh (Saginaw) also finished in our top 10, with Dickinson ranking between sixth and eighth on all four lists and a bit more variance for the other two.

Most interesting is a No. 3 overall rank for Yakemchuk from Pronman, a significant outlier from the other three lists, which all have him between 10 and 12. As a 6-foot-3 defenseman putting up over a point-per-game, though, it’s certainly not hard to see the appeal of Yakemchuk, who Pronman graded as having above-average puck skills and competitive traits, in addition to a high-end shot.

Parekh, meanwhile, lacks Yakemchuk’s size but has torched the OHL for 81 points in his first 55 games this season. That’s a production level not seen since Ryan Ellis in 2008-09. Among the four lists surveyed, Wheeler was highest on Parekh at No. 6.

Denver (NCAA) defender Zeev Buium is another undersized defenseman putting up eye-popping totals in college hockey — and was part of Team USA’s world junior gold medal team this year — and he finished seventh on Wheeler’s list and 12th overall. Meanwhile, Czech defender Adam Jiricek (David’s brother) landed at 14, but may have a tough time rising from there after suffering a season-ending injury at the world juniors.

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Almost every team can use another defenseman on draft day, and that’s why usually, we see more defenders than perhaps expected go early. Last season, our final consensus big board had the first defenseman on the board ranked at No. 11, but in reality, three blueliners were picked in those first 11 selections.

This time around, though, there won’t be any reason for surprise when the D-men fly early and often.

Top forwards

Rank Player Position Pronman rank Wheeler rank Peters rank McKenzie rank
1 Macklin Celebrini C 1 1 1 1
T4 Cayden Lindstrom C 4 11 3 5
T4 Ivan Demidov RW 8 4 5 6
6 Cole Eiserman LW 9 3 8 4
8 Berkly Catton C 6 9 7 10

With all that said, it’s not as though teams hunting for a forward are out of luck this Summer. Certainly, Celebrini is the prize of the draft, and he ranked first on all four lists here.

But even for the teams who miss out on him, there’s a lot to like. There is, however, some dispute as to who should come next. Medicine Hat (WHL) center Cayden Lindstrom and Russian winger Ivan Demidov tied for fourth on the composite list, with Lindstrom getting a vote as high as third from Peters. Wheeler, however, had Lindstrom all the way down at 11, while being the high ranker on Demidov at No. 4.

Both, though, bring highly intriguing packages — Lindstrom as a 6-foot-4 center with both big-time production and what Pronman rated as high-end compete level, and Demidov as a scoring winger who has torched the MHL to the tune of two full points per game this season. Wheeler called Demidov “one of the most purely talented prospects to come out of Russia in recent memory,” not quite at the level of 2024 seventh-overall pick Matvei Michkov, but adding “his game also has more of a pro-style/competitiveness/roundedness to it than Michkov’s at the same age.”

Beyond those two, the biggest names to know are US NTDP winger Cole Eiserman and Spokane (WHL) center Berkly Catton. Catton has scored at a ferocious rate all season, at a comparable rate to 2024 13th pick Zach Benson. Catton, though, plays center, and has “above average” rankings from Pronman on every single tool. He’s only 5-foot-11, but for teams hunting for a top-six center, Catton will be a natural target.

Eiserman, meanwhile, may be more divisive. Ever since he arrived at the NTDP, all he’s done is score, averaging better than a goal per game. He has a chance at breaking Cole Caufield’s all-time record. And for that reason, it’s no surprise to see him in the top 10, ranking third on Wheeler’s list and fourth on McKenzie’s. Peters and Pronman, though, have him eighth and ninth, respectively, with Pronman citing off-puck effort as a snag. That divide is a good illustration of both what teams will be weighing on draft day, and also how high Eiserman’s draft floor still may be — even the low rankers have him in the top 10.

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Between those top forwards and the bevy of high-end defense prospects in this class, teams picking in the top 10 can start getting excited over the probability they will come away with either a premium defenseman, center or goal scorer in this class.

Here’s the complete midseason consensus top-32:

Consensus Big Board

Rank Player Position Pronman rank Wheeler rank Peters rank McKenzie rank
1 Macklin Celebrini C 1 1 1 1
2 Artyom Levshunov RHD 5 2 2 3
3 Anton Silayev LHD 2 5 4 2
T4 Cayden Lindstrom C 4 11 3 5
T4 Ivan Demidov RW 8 4 5 6
6 Cole Eiserman LW 9 3 8 4
7 Sam Dickinson LHD 7 8 6 7
8 Berkly Catton C 6 9 7 10
T9 Carter Yakemchuk RHD 3 12 10 12
T9 Zayne Parekh RHD 10 6 12 9
11 Konsta Helenius C 11 10 9 8
12 Zeev Buium LHD 12 7 11 13
13 Trevor Connelly LW 14 15 13 11
14 Adam Jiricek RHD 13 17 15 14
15 Michael Brandsegg-Nygard RW 16 13 14 20
16 Tij Iginla C 15 21 16 16
17 Igor Chernyshov LW 17 18 18 18
18 Liam Greentree LW 31 14 20 17
19 Emil Hemming RW 20 17 15
20 Sacha Boisvert C 22 24 19 22
21 Aron Kiviharju LHD 25 16 24 23
22 Beckett Sennecke RW 24 27 21 19
23 Michael Hage C 19 22 23 36
24 Charlie Elick RHD 18 34 27 28
25 Cole Hutson LHD 20 30 28 41
T26 Tanner Howe LW 30 28 29 25
T26 Ryder Ritchie RW 33 25 35 21
28 Nikita Artamonov LW 27 32 22 34
29 Henry Mews RHD 19 31 37
30 Terik Parascak RW 26 32 27
T31 Cole Beaudoin C 23 37 44 30
T31 Andrew Basha LW 29 38 24

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(Illustration: Daniel Goldfarb / The Athletic; Photos: Winslow Townson / Getty Images; Michael Miller / ISI Photos / Getty Images)

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Max Bultman is a staff writer for The Athletic covering the Detroit Red Wings. He has also written for the Sporting News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Max is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he covered Michigan football and men’s basketball. Follow Max on Twitter @m_bultman

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