As the Blackhawks get set to draft No. 2 overall for just the second time in franchise history, takes a look at just a few of the top names at last week’s NHL Combine that could be available for selection on June 28 in Vegas.



Macklin Celebrini hopes to follow in the footsteps of NHL stars like Paul Kariya and Jack Eichel, both of whom, like Celebrini, won the NCAA’s Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top collegiate player as a freshman. But unlike Kariya, Eichel or last season’s No. 2 overall pick Adam Fantilli, Celebrini could make history as the first Hobey Baker winner to go No. 1 overall later this month.

Many draft experts project Celebrini to go first overall to the San Jose Sharks — something the Sharks themselves have all-but assured in the lead up to the draft — but stranger things have happened on draft day, and until his name is called he’s a name the Blackhawks have still familiarized themselves with just in case. (Remember in 2022 when Shane Wright was the “consensus No. 1” going into the draft and slid to Seattle at No. 4?).

“There's been a lot of talk around [going No. 1], and that possibility, for sure,” Celebrini said last week at the NHL Combine in Buffalo. “But, I mean, at the end of the day, you never know what's gonna happen. And I don't think I'm getting too ahead of myself. I don't think anyone else is gonna get too ahead of themselves, too.”

Macklin Celebrini on Development

So what makes the just-turned-18-years-old forward the consensus No. 1 pick?

In 37 games this season at Boston University, the freshman posted 32 goals and 64 points, leading the Terriers to a Frozen Four appearance in his first season. The two-way forward did it all for BU in his short tenure (it’s widely expected he’ll turn pro once drafted), and his speed and skill earned him a plethora of honors in addition to the Hobey Baker: named Hockey East Player of the Year, Hockey East Rookie of the Year and finishing second in the nation in goals per game.

A year prior, he laced his skates for the USHL’s Chicago Steel, registering 86 points in 50 games — the most points ever by a 17 year old in USHL history. He earned player of the year honors before moving on to the college ranks.

“It's kind of cliche, but I feel like I need to work on everything,” he said. “I’m not very satisfied with where my game’s at. I feel like there were a lot of holes in my game this year, so I'm gonna be working this year — I was even talking to some my coaching staff from last year on some things they think I need to improve. There’s for sure stuff that I need to work on, that I’m going to be working on in the summer.”

Though he might not become a Blackhawk this summer, Celebrini has the ear of last year’s top pick, fellow Vancouver native Connor Bedard, should he need any help along the way.

“I talked to him a little bit,” Celebrini said. “He's a friend, we kind of grew up a little bit together. At the start of this year, he kind of reached out and said if there's anything I need, or anything I need help with, let him know.”



One of the most personable prospects at the NHL Combine in Buffalo last week was Belarusian defenseman Artyom Levshunov, who just finished his freshman year at Michigan State. From shaking the hand of nearly every reporter in attendance to joking with the contingent that, even during a brutal Michigan winter he rode his bike everywhere on campus rather than paying for an Uber or a car — “Glove, hat and facemask, and there we go,” he explained — the reviews of the 6-foot-2 blueliner were high.

But it’s not just the off-ice personality that has Levshunov widely thought of as the top defenseman in the draft — his budding play on it speaks for itself.

He was Michigan State’s top scorer this season, with 35 points in 38 games for the Spartans in his first year and was named the Big 10 defensive player of the year. It was a major step from his lone season in the USHL the year prior in Green Bay — his first year in North America — where he was named to league’s the third all-star team.

Zeev Buium and Artyom Levshunov on NCAA Season

“I always remember, before we’d play Green Bay (in the USHL), all the guys were talking about him,” projected top pick Macklin Celebrini told reporters at the combine. “Then we got on the ice, he would just take over the game. He’s a pretty special player, smooth skater and a wizard with the puck.”

“I'm pretty simple player, actually.” Levshunov said modestly of his style of play. “Just try to play hockey and do my job. I try to play fast and try to play smart and try to help the team win.”

Regardless of whether the Michigan State blueliner gets selected by Chicago or another team near the top of the draft order, he’s likely to become the highest-drafted player ever from his home country Belarus, a title Ruslan Salei holds currently at No. 9 overall in the 1996 draft. 

“It’s cool for me, awesome for my country,” he said. “It’ll be pretty cool.”



For teams looking to add size and skill to their offensive side of the puck, Cayden Lindstrom could be a coveted answer at the top of the draft. At 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, he’s got at least two inches and upwards of 20 pounds on any of the other the forwards ranked near the top of the first round by NHL Central Scouting.

Lindstrom says he tries to model his game off similarly-sized impact players like Roope Hintz and Nathan McKinnon.

“Both kind of power-skilled forwards,” he explained. “I try and pick up things from their game, just speed and powerful wise, and how they really create space for themselves in the corners and through neutral zone, building up speed, stuff like that.”

In 32 games this season for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, Lindstrom logged 46 points (27G, 19A). — exceeding his 42 points (19G, 23A) in 61 games the season prior. Lindstrom did miss the latter part of last season with injuries, but battled back in time to dress for the playoffs, even if not at 100%. He said now, though, he feels healthy and ready for the next level.

“I'm feeling great,” he said. “I’m working out five or six times a week, skating three, four times a week. Everything's going well, healing up pretty quickly.”

Cayden Lindstrom and Zayne Parekh on Performance

A native of the small town of Chetwynd, British Columbia, Lindstrom was quick to call out his family’s sacrifice in getting him to this point in his career — projected to go within the first handful of picks on June 28. After driving across Western Canada for tournaments as a kid, at 14 years old, he moved almost 700 miles away to skate at the Delta Hockey Academy just outside Vancouver, where he gained the recognition after a few years to make the jump to the WHL.

“My family has played a huge role growing up,” he said. “All the sacrifices they made for me, just driving me to different practices out of town, different expenses, driving 14 hours just for a little summer hockey tournament -- little sacrifices like that. They've supported me all the way. They were never complained or anything.”

Lindstrom is also proud to be setting an example for other young players of color.

“It means a lot,” he said, “just showing that anyone can do it whether you're of color or not, and just showing younger kids of color, and without color even, just that if you kind of put in the work and just grind every day, that you can get to wherever you want really, in either sports or in life.”