An early look at 11 prospects destined for the 2024 NHL Draft
The top of the 2024 NHL draft class is sure to include plenty of prospects who have yet to introduce themselves to the hockey world on a big stage.
It's a notable difference from the previous two entry drafts. Both Shane Wright and Connor Bedard were known commodities at the start of their draft years as players whom Hockey Canada granted exceptional status.
Unlike last year's draft, where a generational prospect in Bedard and a plethora of forward talent were available, this year's crop lacks the star power at the top of the class and should include a slew of defensemen projected to go early after a trio of forwards.
Here are 11 prospects to keep an eye on entering the 2024 draft year.
Macklin Celebrini, C
Celebrini, a forward from Boston University, is the preseason favorite to go first overall next June.
The Vancouver native decimated the USHL last season, winning Rookie and Player of the Year as a member of the Chicago Steel, and he makes the jump to the NCAA this fall.
Expectations are high for Celebrini after Adam Fantilli's superb freshman campaign last season at Michigan. As a 17-year-old with the Steel in 2021-22, Fantilli scored 74 points in 54 games. Celebrini, at age 16, exceeded that with 86 in 50.
Celebrini followed up his excellent USHL performance by leading Team Canada in scoring at the U18s with 15 points in seven contests. He did so on a roster that featured three forwards taken in the first round of the 2023 draft.
He ticks the boxes of a future top-line center. Celebrini is well-rounded at both ends and combines high intelligence with superb puck skills. He's listed at a sturdy 6-feet and 190 pounds as well. It's a recipe that will make him difficult to bump from the top spot.
Cole Eiserman, LW
|U.S. NTDP (USHL)||32||28||16||44|
The biggest challenger for Celebrini's top spot is American sharpshooter Eiserman.
Once a teammate of Celebrini at Shattuck St. Mary's, Eiserman joined the U.S. National Team Development Program last season and immediately showcased his remarkable shooting talent. Tallying 69 goals in 62 total games, he blew past the NTDP's previous Under-17 single-season goal record of 54 set by Cole Caufield.
Eiserman will be gunning for the all-time record - 72, also set by Caufield - this season.
He scored nine goals at the U18s in the spring to match 2023 fourth overall pick Will Smith for the tournament lead.
Eiserman's tantalizing ability to put the puck in the net makes him such an intriguing talent at the top of the class. He'll have to showcase more than just his shot if he's going to surpass Celebrini to the top spot in 2024, though.
Ivan Demidov, RW
If there's a player who can disrupt the duo at the top, it's Demidov.
The Russian possesses jaw-dropping skill, which was on full display last season in the MHL. The only player to score at a higher rate before their draft year in the league's history is Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matvei Michkov, who tallied 51 points in 28 MHL games two years ago.
Demidov isn't quite at Michkov's level, but there are also fewer questions about his long-term status. Demidov's KHL contract expires after the 2024-25 season, just one year after next summer's draft. Michkov, meanwhile, will remain signed for another season after that.
Waiting just one year post-draft to bring Demidov to North America instead of the three the Flyers have to wait for Michkov is significant. Don't anticipate Demidov to slide down the board in the same way Michkov did.
Artyom Levshunov, RHD
|Green Bay (USHL)||62||13||29||42|
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim drafted Ruslan Salei ninth overall in 1996, and the rearguard has been the highest-drafted Belarussian since.
That could change in 2024. Levshunov, a 6-foot-2, right-shot blue-liner impressed last season after making the jump from Belarus to North America in the USHL. He earned All-Rookie Team honors and landed on the Third All-Star Team as well.
Levshunov joins Adam Nightingale's rapidly improving Michigan State program this fall. He has NHL size and showcased exciting offensive potential in his maiden North American campaign.
If he can hold his own defensively in the NCAA while producing points in the Big Ten, he'll be a strong candidate to be the first defenseman off the board in June.
Berkly Catton, C
Catton leads the way out West following an impressive showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
As captain of the Canadian squad, Catton scored a tournament-high eight goals and 10 points in five games, leading his nation to the gold medal in August.
Catton's listed at a slight 5-foot-11 and 163 pounds, but the Saskatoon native makes up for his lack of weight with his immense offensive talent. He's already off to a flying start in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs, and a 100-point campaign isn't out of the question.
Beginning the year as the No. 2 center available behind Celebrini, Catton will have a chance to solidify a place in the top five and be the first CHLer to hear his name called.
Sam Dickinson, LHD
Dickinson's the latest top prospect to come through the London Knights.
The Toronto native played his way into a top-four role on a good Knights team last season - no easy feat for a 16-year-old. He excelled in the postseason, posting eight points and a plus-12 rating in 21 contests.
With Montreal Canadiens prospect Logan Mailloux graduating to the professional ranks, Dickinson will not only see more responsibility at even strength but will also take on a much greater role on the man advantage. Expect a significant jump from the 23 points he put up a year ago.
Dickinson's tools are obvious. He's listed at 6-foot-3, skates very well, and moves the puck just as effectively. He has all the makings of a minute-munching top-four defenseman.
Konsta Helenius, C
Finland hasn't produced a top-10 pick since the New York Rangers took Kaapo Kakko second overall in 2019. That looks set to change with two candidates in 2024.
Helenius demolished the Finnish junior league last season, producing at a rate slightly better than Kakko at the same age, albeit in half the games.
His performance earned him a spot in the top Finnish men's league after returning from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November. Helenius finished the campaign with 33 games in Liiga, a total that hasn't been reached by a 16-year-old in the league since the 1970s.
Already featuring as a top-six center in a men's league, Helenius will challenge Catton to be the second pivot off of the board should he take another step with Jukurit.
Aron Kiviharju, LHD
Kiviharju was one of the first 2024 draft-eligible prospects to pop up on the radar. He's dominated the Finnish junior ranks, but after struggling in his first stint at the pro level, his stock has fallen behind others at the top of the class.
He's already played at two U18s and has matched Miro Heiskanen's record of 13 career points by a Finnish defenseman at the event. Kiviharju's done so in fewer games, and if he plays at a third U18s in the spring, he'll blow past that mark.
Despite his success at the junior level and internationally, he had a disappointing season overall, which led to him being cut from Finland's world junior squad. He failed to make an impact in Liiga, which resulted in him moving to a new team.
After years in the TPS system, Kiviharju moves to HIFK for his draft year - the same team that developed Heiskanen into a No. 3 pick in 2017. Kiviharju doesn't have the same physical traits as the Dallas rearguard - he's listed at just 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds - but has outproduced Heiskanen at each level so far.
If Kiviharju figures it out with HIFK, there's a good chance he can vault himself back up the board and into the conversation to be the top blue-liner in the class.
Anton Silayev, LHD
To say that Silayev has burst onto the scene as a potential top pick in the draft would be an understatement.
After scoring only eight points in the Russian junior league last season, the defenseman has already tallied six points in the KHL early in the campaign. His output would be impressive for a forward, let alone a blue-liner.
Silayev is listed at 6-foot-7 and 207 pounds, and he's mobile too. There are kinks to be worked out with his puck-handling and decision-making, but the tools are clear as day.
Considering 6-foot-6 Dmitry Simashev went sixth overall after going without a point in 18 KHL contests a year ago, it's likely we'll hear Silayev's name called very early if he maintains his spot in the KHL.
Adam Jiricek, RHD
|Plzen U20 (Czechia)||41||12||17||29|
The younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets prospect David Jiricek, Adam ticks a lot of the same boxes.
Just like David - who was taken sixth overall in 2022 and appeared in four NHL games last season - Adam is a right-shot blue-liner with an impressive frame at 6-foot-2. He plays an aggressive style and has the makings of a two-way force.
We got a glimpse of Jiricek's potential in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup gold-medal game, where he logged 32:07 against Canada's best before Czechia lost in the dying seconds of the first overtime period.
He's expected to make the full-time jump to the Czech pro league this season with HC Plzen and should feature in a prominent role at the world juniors.
Cole Hutson, LHD
|U.S. NTDP (USHL)||32||4||21||25|
Jiricek isn't the only top-ranked defense prospect in the 2024 class with a familiar surname.
Cole Hutson - the younger brother of Canadiens prospect and Boston University phenom Lane - bears a resemblance to his older sibling as well.
Listed at 5-foot-10, Cole was more productive than Lane at the same age with the NTDP and possesses similar exhilarating skating and puck skills that have made the elder Hutson a hot topic in the prospect sphere over the past year.
Despite the high-octane offensive game Lane played at the NTDP, he still dropped to the end of the second round in the 2022 draft. It's highly unlikely teams make the same mistake with the third Hutson brother, especially if he exceeds Lane's totals from the 2021-22 campaign.
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