NHL draft: Macklin Celebrini headlines early rankings for 2024

With the 2023 NHL Draft in the books, it's time to take an early look at the best players available next year.

Connor Bedard stole the show in 2023, and in some ways the elite talent atop the 2023 NHL Draft has stolen the show from the 2024 class as a whole. That’s about to change as a new scouting cycle begins, and teams and media begin forming draft boards for next year.

It’s a class headlined by elite offensive talents including Macklin Celebrini and Cole Eiserman, who continue to showcase skill sets that will keep tanking teams focused on the future. Defender Aron Kiviharju enters this offseason as the top European player on the board, followed closely by Russia’s Ivan Demidov.

One trend evident in early evaluations is the talent change on the blue line from 2023 to 2024. This year, blueliners including Axel Sandin Pellikka and David Reinbacher had to work their way into the conversation as potential top 15 picks. In 2024, Kiviharju, Sam Dickinson, Artyom Levshunov, and Zayne Parekh are all starting the season in that space, showcasing a much deeper defense group in early projections.

While it’s still a year away, here’s a look at an early top five for the 2024 NHL Draft.

Macklin Celebrini looks like the top player in the 2024 NHL Draft class. (Photo by Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Macklin Celebrini looks like the top player in the 2024 NHL Draft class. (Photo by Jari Pestelacci/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

1. Macklin Celebrini, C, Boston University: Celebrini won the USHL’s Player of the Year honors as a 16-year-old rookie after scoring 46 goals and 80 points in 50 games for the Chicago Steel. The Steel have produced top-five NHL draft picks in recent years, including Owen Power and Adam Fantilli, and it seems certain Celebrini will join that list.

The 5-foot-11, 189-pound pivot has the hands, foot speed and a shot that screams top-line NHL star. Going to Boston University next season to play against older, strong competition in the NCAA, it’s highly likely Celebrini will be NHL-ready following his season.

2. Cole Eiserman, LW, USNTDP: Only two players in history have scored more than a point per game with the USA’s national U-17 team: Montreal Canadiens star Cole Caufield and Eiserman, who notched 43 goals in 42 games.

Eiserman wasn’t slowed playing up with the USNTDP, scoring 44 points in 32 games. He is an exciting pure goal scorer with a deadly release that almost always finds its target, no matter how small.

3. Aron Kiviharju, D, HIFK: Entering this season, Kiviharju was the No. 1 prospect for many, and he could still end up going first overall. He is a smooth-skating modern blueliner who distributes the puck masterfully, but is currently on the smaller side at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds. Like many young defenders, he had some ups and downs this season but remained well ahead of the curve while spending most of the year as a 16-year-old playing in Finland’s top professional league, which can challenge even seasoned veterans.

If he were to slide any further down the ranks, he’ll almost certainly be a pick teams are kicking themselves for not making for the next decade.

4. Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg: A late 2005 birth year, Demidov blew away the competition in Russia’s top junior league — the MHL — this season. He scored 1.45 points per game, totalling 64 points in 44 games.

Demidov uses pace changes to open seams, and has a deft playmaking touch.

5. Sam Dickinson, D, London Knights: Selected to the OHL All-Rookie team and named a World U-17 Hockey Challenge All-Star, Dickinson had a spectacular season as a 16-year-old in the OHL. After refusing to sign with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, a team shrouded in numerous scandals over the past two seasons, he thrived in London, scoring 23 points in 62 games.

His 6-foot-3 frame provides Dickinson with the wingspan to take away lanes, but it’s his skating that truly stands out.

Other first-round prospects to watch: Berkly Catton, Henry Mews, Sacha Boisvert, Zayne Parekh, Artyom Levshunov, Konsta Helenius, Tanner Howe, Cole Hutson, Michael Hage, John Whipple, Adam Jiricek, Emil Hemming, Alexander Zetterberg, Eemil Vinni, Charlie Elick.