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NHL mock draft: Marquee D-men rise after Memorial Cup

Julian Catalfo / theScore

Following the Memorial Cup and scouting combine, theScore's Kyle Cushman, Nick Faris, John Matisz, and Josh Wegman united to project the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft. A final mock will be published closer to the June 28-29 event.

This pick requires little explanation. Celebrini is the consensus top prospect in the draft after becoming the youngest player ever to win the Hobey Baker Award. He might be a notch below Connor Bedard, but Celebrini has franchise player potential and will aim to lead the Sharks' turnaround.

The Blackhawks face a big decision: Should they tap a dynamic forward to play with Bedard or strengthen the foundation of their blue line? Door No. 2 is the wise choice, and it nets them Levshunov, the best prospect Belarus has ever produced. He outmuscles puck carriers, eagerly jumps into the rush, and pairs good playmaking instincts with the ability to bury shots.

The Ducks already have two young left-shot defensemen in Pavel Mintyukov and Olen Zellweger. But with the right-handed Levshunov off the board, general manager Pat Verbeek continues to build Anaheim's new defense by snagging a unicorn prospect in Silayev. At 6-foot-7 and with some of the best skating in the draft, Silayev has the makings of an elite shutdown defender.

Fourth is a can't-lose draft slot; there are so many satisfying possibilities for the Blue Jackets. In Demidov, new GM Don Waddell gets an elusive and creative playmaker to join forces with 2023 third overall pick Adam Fantilli. Demidov recorded 60 points in 30 games in Russia's top junior league this past season. The so-called Russian factor shouldn't be an issue: The country is well-represented in Columbus, with four skaters and a goalie on the roster.

With a deep prospect pool on defense, expect the Canadiens to pick a forward. Lindstrom has every physical tool they could ask for: He's 6-foot-3, skates like the wind, isn't afraid to throw his weight around, and has a bullet of a shot. There are concerns about his vision and injury history (he missed 36 games in 2023-24 with various ailments), but his upside is through the roof.

Defensemen are about to fly off the board, and the run begins with Yakemchuk, the first draft choice bound for Utah. The 6-foot-3 righty's long reach and scoring touch (49 goals over the past two WHL seasons) are coveted traits. An audacious puck transporter, Yakemchuk's dangling opens lanes for him to drive, pass, or rip wrist shots past overmatched goalies.

Parekh's stellar 33-goal, 96-point campaign with the Memorial Cup-winning Spirit made him the Canadian Hockey League's defenseman of the year. He's not the biggest or the best defensively, but Parekh's immense offense and ultra-high competitiveness are too tantalizing to pass on as a right-shot defender.

Seattle's prospect pool desperately needs a defenseman with top-four potential. Zeev Buium and Dickinson are the available players who fit that description, and Kraken GM Ron Francis opts for the bigger, sturdier guy who shined at the Memorial Cup. Dickinson is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, skates extremely well, is equal parts competitive and athletic, and can contribute in all three zones. Big-time value.

Would Flames GM Craig Conroy pass on Tij Iginla, the son of his friend and colleague Jarome? That's tough to say, but with Catton available, Conroy can make it an easy sell. Catton is one of just four CHL players since 2000 to put up at least 50 goals and 115 points in his draft year, joining No. 1 picks Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, and Bedard. If Catton - a dynamic, 5-foot-10 center - were a few inches taller, he's probably long gone.

The Devils are open to trading this pick to facilitate a win-now move, possibly for a proven netminder. Keeping it to snare Buium, a 50-point freshman on Denver's national championship team, is a fun outcome. Skilled, smooth, and savvy defensemen are valuable players. Why not add another puck-mover to complement Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec?

The Sabres' prospect pool is loaded up front, but with none of the top defenders falling to No. 11, Buffalo opts for a physical, thrilling scorer. Iginla was one of the breakout players of the class with his 47-goal campaign in the WHL. He scored just six the season prior in a depth role.

On the heels of a midseason growth spurt and a strong second half to the OHL season, Sennecke's taken a good 10-15 slots earlier than his preseason projection. The Flyers simply can't pass on the Generals winger, who possesses elite puck skills and a good shot. Sennecke has the skating and frame to someday become an impact top-six power forward in the NHL.

Solberg was nowhere near the first-round radar entering the season. However, the Norwegian's trending in the right direction after strong showings at the World Juniors, where he logged huge minutes, and the World Championship, where he played with Wild forward Mats Zuccarello. Solberg is 6-foot-2, mobile, and tenacious - sort of like current Minnesota blue-liner Jonas Brodin.

Using an asset obtained in the Erik Karlsson trade, the Sharks add the filthy sniper who led the NTDP in career goals (127, one more than Cole Caufield). Defense is an organizational need, but this pick reunites Celebrini with a close friend and former prep school linemate. Eiserman, who turns 18 in August, has runway to round out his game and make smarter decisions with the puck.

There's a case to be made that Hage was the best player in the USHL down the stretch. The Mississauga, Ontario, native found his groove with 22 goals and 48 points in 28 games after Jan. 1. He adds exciting offensive upside to a Red Wings prospect pool that's already teeming with future NHLers.

The Blues are banking on Helenius being the two-way center they watched in Finland's top pro league versus the one who disappointed at multiple international tournaments. Helenius, who's slightly undersized, posted 14 goals and 22 assists in 51 games for Jukurit - an impressive stat line for a draft-eligible player. The kid has top-six upside thanks to great hockey sense.

The Capitals haven't picked a defenseman in the first round since Alexander Alexeyev in 2018, so they're overdue to do so. The younger brother of David Jiricek, Adam boasts many of the same qualities - mobile, right-shot defenseman with size - but isn't quite as offensively gifted. He got some top-10 buzz before suffering a season-ending knee injury at the World Juniors.

GM Kyle Davidson sought to maximize the value of Chicago's picks by moving up from No. 20 in May. The trade's timing was unusual, but by flipping the Islanders an additional second-rounder, the Blackhawks get to add a feisty, responsible, shoot-first winger out of Oslo. Brandsegg-Nygard scored three goals and five points at the men's worlds.

A good end to the campaign at the Under-18s helped Luchanko's stock rise at the right time. The Storm pivot has superb speed, a high-end motor, and defensive acumen. Even if the offensive side doesn't develop enough to push him into a top-six role, Luchanko's tools are primed to make him a bottom-six stalwart.

The prospect-starved Islanders need to hit on this pick, and Chernyshov is both a safe and intriguing choice. The north-south winger is physically mature, can score (13 goals in 22 games in Russia's top junior league), and grabs your attention with his high compete level. Of note: The Isles signed Maxim Tsyplakov, the top free agent out of the KHL, in May.

Elick possesses traits that scouts gush over: He's 6-foot-3, right-handed, and one of the best skaters in the draft, plus he has a mean streak to his game. Elick's lack of offensive ability could cap his upside in the pros, but he has the potential to be a top-four, shutdown defenseman.

Concerns about Connelly's behavior, which stem from the posting of an offensive image and his alleged mistreatment of fellow youth players, were detailed in The Athletic. On the ice, he's a great skater and creator. Under GM Barry Trotz, Nashville wants to swing for home runs early in the process.

Greentree was named captain of the Spitfires at 17 and tallied 90 points on the second-worst team in the OHL. The 6-foot-3 winger plays with power but also possesses a quality shot, playmaking, and skill. He slips down the board after an underwhelming under-18 tournament.

No team is getting a premade NHLer this deep into the first round. Colorado takes a chance on Parascak, whose skating is a concern. What's not a concern: Parascak's mind for the game and handles with the puck. The Alberta native tore up the WHL as a rookie with 105 points in 68 games.

Letourneau is arguably the biggest wild card in the class. He's a 6-foot-7, 214-pound center who tallied 61 goals and 127 points in 56 games. But he put up those numbers at a prep school, facing severely weaker competition than his draft counterparts. Making this pick will take courage, but GM Steve Staios is on secure ground, and with his second of two first-rounders, taking a shot on upside makes sense. Letourneau grew up in the Ottawa Valley, too.

Besides Owen Beck, none of Montreal's recent premium picks have been centers. Lindstrom and Boisvert, a battler and sniper from nearby Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, are welcome additions to the pipeline. Boisvert's 36 goals ranked fifth in the USHL and were the second-most tallied by a draft prospect, trailing teammate Matvei Gridin's 38.

The Hurricanes have taken nine players out of Russia over the past two drafts and dip into that pool again. Artamonov recorded seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in the KHL this season - one shy of Vladimir Tarasenko's record for a draft-eligible player in that top-tier pro league.

Having already selected a productive forward in Catton, the Flames use their second pick on a modern defenseman - one with baggage. Kiviharju, a 5-foot-10 puck-mover, is incredibly mobile and smart, the type of blue-liner who can skate himself out of trouble and dazzle in small areas. However, he played in only seven Liiga games this year due to a knee injury.

Could Beaudoin be the latest gem found by GM Jim Nill and the Stars' scouting staff? There's certainly a lot to like. He's a highly competitive 6-foot-2 center who plays a sound two-way game. Question marks about his footspeed could force a move to the wing, but Beaudoin has middle-six potential.

The Rangers like to reel in major point producers (Gabe Perreault, Brennan Othmann, Alexis Lafreniere) or imposing defensemen (Braden Schneider, K'Andre Miller) with their first-round picks. Emery, a 6-foot-3 North Dakota commit coming off an impressive combine, fits the second group. His nimble feet and active stick help him erase offense.

Note: If the Oilers win the Stanley Cup, Philadelphia will select 31st (acquired Florida's pick in Claude Giroux trade) and Anaheim will select 32nd (acquired Edmonton's pick in Adam Henrique trade).

After opting for a defensive defenseman in Silayev, the Ducks snag a versatile winger in Vanacker. The Bulldogs forward broke out this season with 36 goals and 82 points after tallying just four and 16, respectively, as an OHL rookie.

Surin's one of the youngest players in the class and fresh off a back half of the season in which he imposed his will upon Russia's junior league. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound winger plays with pace, is hyper-competitive, and doesn't shy away from physicality. He's the perfect fit for a franchise with a clear identity.

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