Every year prior to the NHL Draft, staff members take a shot at predicting the opening round. Like many drafts, there is a consensus on the first-overall pick, with Boston University's Macklin Celebrini landing in that coveted No. 1 spot. After that, Torie Peterson, Ryan Dittrick, Alex Medina and Chris Wahl's selections go in wildly different directions.

1. San Jose Sharks

Macklin Celebrini, C, Boston University (NCAA)

Celebrini’s college masterclass made him the youngest player ever to win the Hobey Baker Award.

That pretty much says it all.

With 32 goals and 64 points in only 38 games with Boston University this year, the Vancouver native achieved a level of excellence that ranks right near the ‘generational’ label. He’s a quick, powerful skater with highest of high-end offensive tools, along with the hands and creativity to wow the crowd on a nightly basis.

Mike Grier and the Sharks have hit the jackpot.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (Russia Jr.)

To me, this is one of the most fascinating slots in the draft. Demidov has all sorts of potential, with a number of scouts believing his top-end could even rival the best the class has to offer at some point in the future. But will anyone actually take a swing? His lack of pro experience, despite dominating the Russian junior league over the past two seasons, could have some approaching with caution. But the fact is, Demidov’s game-breaking skill, elite hockey sense and ravenous motor makes him an intriguing option. That said, if Demidov doesn’t go early, how far will he slide?

3. Anaheim Ducks

Anton Silayev, D, Nizhny Novgorod (Russia)


That’s it. That’s the scouting report.

In all seriousness – while the 6-foot-7, 211-lb. frame almost immediately draws your attention – what separates Silayev from other big-body blueliners is his ability to transport that towering figure (and the puck) with such ease. 

“It’s not often that there is a 6’7”, 211 lb. defenceman who is a fluid skater and has the puck skills, attributes, and intangibles to be considered a franchise-type prospect,” said the Director of NHL Central Scouting, Dan Marr.

Silayev spent the 2023-24 season playing professionally in the KHL, where he led all under-18 skaters in the with 11 points (3G, 8A) in 63 games.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

Tij Iginla, C, Kelowna (WHL)

While there’s a new GM at the helm – Don Waddell, previously of the Carolina Hurricanes – the Jackets have been known to take a few swings at the top-end of the draft (the oohs and ahhs in 2016 when the outgoing boss, Jarmo Kekäläinen, announced the selection of Pierre-Luc Dubois at No. 3 lives on in the mind’s eye). But a reach, this is not. Iginla is one of the fastest risers of this year’s class and has quickly established himself as one of the elite talents available. He’s a centre, no less, and will add instant credibility to a forward corps in need of some punch down the middle. In 64 skates last year, Iginla had 47 goals and 84 points, before adding another 15 points (9G, 6A) in 11 playoff games and helping Team Canada to a gold medal by finishing third in team scoring at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

5. Montreal Canadiens

Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat (WHL)

If the Habs, indeed, had their eye on Iginla in this spot, Lindstrom is one heck of a ‘backup’ plan. While the 6-foot-3, left-shot pivot had some injury trouble this year, when healthy, he was one of the Western League’s elite offensive threats. Goal-scoring is his calling card, with 27 tucks in 32 games with the Tigers this year – and while many scouts believe he would be better suited on the wing at some point, the versatility in Lindstrom’s game makes him an attractive option for a team looking to bolster its depth down the middle.

6. Utah Hockey Club

Artyom Levshunov, D, Michigan State (NCAA)

Here’s a player that will not only sell hope, but add personality, too, for a franchise reinventing itself. 

Levshunov is an offensive defenceman that skates well, loves to attack, has an excellent first pass and a potent shot from up top, or off the rush. Basically, he has everything you could ever want in a future top-pairing blueliner. The Belarus native put up nine goals and 35 points in 38 games last year for one of the top college programs in the country and was named the Big Ten Rookie of the Year for his efforts. 

And this, from colleague Chris Wahl – who scoured the Scouting Combine in Buffalo last week – sheds light on how he interviewed with club brass. 

"All week, he’s had staffers in stitches – a KeyBank Center security guard regaled the Flames TV team with a five-minute story about the blueliner’s sense of humour.”

7. Ottawa Senators

Sam Dickinson, D, London (OHL)

In talking to those who have closely followed the blueliner’s career, it’s common to hear this one word when describing Dickinson’s spellbinding skating ability:


He accelerates with ease and effortlessly changes gears from either a lateral or north-south motion, while reaching a top-end speed that rivals some of the best in pro hockey. His puck-handling is equally fluid, allowing him to escape trouble and neatly maneuver an oncoming forecheck, before galloping up ice and creating offence off the rush. At 6-foot-3, it’s an especially enticing package.

8. Seattle Kraken

Zayne Parekh, D, Saginaw (OHL)

Parekh had a season for the ages, accruing 96 points (33G, 63A) in 66 regular-season games, before adding another 11 points (2G, 9A) in 13 playoff appearances. And this, after breaking an OHL record the year prior for the most goals ever by a 16-year-old with 21 as a league rookie.

Blinding stuff. 

Scouts have drawn parallels to smooth-skating Canucks blueliner Quinn Hughes, and with the array of offensive weapons and dynamic footspeed in his arsenal, you can certainly see why.

9. Calgary Flames

Zeev Buium, D, University of Denver (NCAA)

If you’re the Flames, you have to be thrilled with how the draft has played out to this point, and Buium would be an absolute dinger of a homerun at No. 9. The blueliner has a fascinating story, from driving two-and-a-half hours each way as a youngster to play hockey in LA, to leaving home at 13 (!) to pursue his dream on the other side of the country, the dedication he and his family have to the sport is incredible. This past year, San Diego native was one of the top-scoring defencemen in college hockey, posting 11 goals and 50 points in 42 games with the University of Denver. A strong skater with elite hockey sense, Buium has top-pairing potential written all over him.

10. New Jersey Devils

Berkly Catton, C, Spokane (WHL)

Catton was one of the best players in the WHL this season, scoring a mind-boggling 54 goals for 116 points in only 68 games. The 5-foot-11, 170-lb. centre is a high-end skater who is particularly strong on his edges. While primarily known as a sniper, his passing and playmaking ability is severely underrated, making him especially difficult to contain as a well-rounded threat in the offensive zone. With blueliners Luke Hughes (2021 – fourth overall) and Simon Nemec (2022 – second) taken with two of their last three first-round picks, a forward makes a ton of sense for the Devils in this spot.

11. Buffalo Sabres

Konsta Helenius, C, Jukurit (Finland)

His coach – former Flame Olli Jokinen – told Scott Wheeler of The Athletic that Helenius could compete for an NHL spot as soon as next season. That’s certainly high praise, but consider the body of work: The 5-foot-11, 180-lb. forward played pro in Finland’s top league, scoring 14 goals for 36 points in only 51 regular-season games as a 17-year-old. He’s known as a dynamic playmaker with a high hockey IQ, and is particularly effective in transition where he can showcase his powerful stride and escapability. The opportunity to add a player of this calibre doesn’t come around often – especially a centre that played big minutes (16:57 on average) and won more than 50% of his faceoffs against older competition last year.

12. Philadelphia Flyers

Carter Yakemchuk, D, Calgary (WHL)

The right-shot blueliner has a nice blend of size (6-foot-3, 202 lbs.) and skill that has scouts salivating. Yakemchuk led all WHL defencemen with his first-ever 30-goal campaign, while adding 41 helpers for a 71-point season to finish second in team scoring with the WHL’s Hitmen. He isn’t the smoothest skater, with can sometimes be exposed in the defensive zone, but his elite puck-handling and flashy offensive instincts help overcome this to break the puck out and lead the attack offensively.

13. Minnesota Wild

Cole Eiserman, LW, USA U-18 (NTDP)

To me, there’s no better home for an American-born sniper than the home of Herb Brooks in the State of Hockey. Eiserman, a Newburyport, Mass. native, has an absolute weapon for a shot – possibly, the best in the entire draft class – and popped off with the U.S. National Team Development Program last year, scoring 58 goals in only 57 games (plus another 25 in 24 games against USHL competition). So, why would a player with such elite numbers fall this far? Scouts are torn, but the debate about whether or not he’s too one-dimensional will certainly rage on for the next two weeks. And likely at the draft table, too.

14. San Jose Sharks (from Pittsburgh Penguins)

Beckett Sennecke, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

With Celebrini already in the fold, what’s next for the Sharks? Oh, nothing much. Just what EliteProspects aptly describes as an “ankle-breaking winger” that controls the puck (and the game) better than most in the class. Not bad, right? Sennecke had 68 points (27G, 41) in 63 regular-season games, before exploding for 22 points (10G, 12A) in only 16 playoff dates. With his combination of puck skills, deception, and sublime vision that makes an elite playmaker, some think Sennecke could possibly be a Top-10, or even Top-5 pick.

15. Detroit Red Wings

Michael Brandsegg-Nygård, RW, Mora (Sweden-2)

The Red Wings have a long history of drafting out of Sweden – whether it’s at the top end with Lucas Raymond, Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper and Axel Sandin-Pellika in each of the past four drafts, or former Conn Smythe winner Henrik Zetterberg deep in the seventh round back in 1999. Brandsegg-Nygård may not hail from this Nordic powerhouse, but he certainly cut his teeth there as a junior in Sweden's second division. The 6-foot-1, 198-lb. Oslo native has a lethal shot with incredible accuracy, and after a solid regular season, stepped up in the spring with four goals and 10 points in 12 playoff games to put him third in team scoring. If things play out as expected on June 29, the right-shot Brandsegg-Nygård will become the first Norwegian ever selected in the first round.

16. St. Louis Blues

Andrew Basha, LW, Medicine Hat (WHL)

The Calgary native sees the game at a high level, boasting the kind of creativity and situational awareness to make plays out of nothing. Often regarded as one of the best playmakers in the draft because of this, the 5-foot-11, 184-lb. left-winger had 85 points (30G, 55A) in 63 games last year. One of his best assets is his ability to create space for his teammates, whether it’s on the rush or deep on the cycle, due to his quickness and impeccable edge work.

17. Washington Capitals

Ryder Ritchie, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)

Speaking of playmaking wingers…

And Calgary products…

Ritchie was limited to only 47 games this season, with a mid-season injury slowing some of the progress he made early in the campaign. But late in the year when the games mattered most, the 17-year-old came to play, with seven points (3G, 4A) in five playoff games before the Raiders were bounced in the first round. While his 44 regular-season points (19G, 25A) won’t leap off the page, the dynamic skill-set certainly turned heads. Ritchie, who was named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2022-23, has terrific hands and a sensational skating stride that allows him to change speed (and direction) on a dime. He’s particularly effective in 1-on-1 situations, lulling defenders into a false sense of security before burning them with his quickness and deft mitts.

18. Chicago Blackhawks (from New York Islanders)

Stian Solberg, D, Valerenga (Norway)

Google his name and you’ll immediately get the skinny on how the 6-foot-2, 201-lb. defender has made a living.

Solberg is a total throwback when it comes to the physical side of the game, whether it’s throwing a hip along the wall, or stepping up and delivering a punishing open-ice hit. As Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek would say, he checks “for keeps.” But he also has the tools that make him something of a unicorn in today’s game, showcasing great speed for man of his build and impressive offensive instincts. Stolberg played in Norway’s top league last year, posting 15 points (5G, 10A) in 42 games, before adding nine points (2G, 7A) in 17 playoff dates, while playing big minutes in a Top-4 role.

19. Vegas Golden Knights

Jett Luchanko, C, Guelph (OHL)

Looking back at the midterm rankings, only a handful of scouting outfits had Luchanko ranked as a bona fide first-round selection. After all, he only had 14 points the previous campaign, when Bruins prospect Matthew Poitras was getting all the attention. But now? You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t think his name could be called on Night 1 at the Sphere. The 5-foot-11, 185-lb. pivot had a monster season in Guelph, finishing with 74 points (20G, 54A) to lead all skaters – as a 17-year-old! In the OHL’s year-end ‘Coaches Poll,’ Luchanko was named one of the smartest players in the western conference – second only to Flames prospect Hunter Brzustewicz. That describes Luchanko’s game perfectly, as the London, Ont. native has a high hockey IQ that sets him apart from his peers.

20. New York Islanders (from Tampa Bay Lightning via Chicago Blackhawks)

Adam Jiricek, D, Plzen (Czechia)

It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of him this year, because it feels like the book on him is…incomplete. Jiricek suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first night of the World Junior Championship back in December, costing him valuable development time and, inevitably, a few spots in the draft order. Offensively, he doesn’t create much, finishing with only a single assist in 19 games in the top Czech league, but his defensive game is sound. Combine that with his high-end hockey sense, and it feels like Jiricek could become a steal in this spot.

21. Los Angeles Kings

Michael Hage, C, Chicago (USHL)

Hage is a game-breaking centre that skates well, plays with an edge, and makes those around him better. Of his 75 points (33G, 42A) last year, 27 (10G, 17A) came in the final 14 games to finish fourth in league scoring. He’s competitive in all three zones and loves to challenge opposing blueliners 1-on-1.

22. Nashville Predators

Liam Greentree, RW, Windsor (OHL)

While Greentree isn't the strongest skater in the class, at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., he's nearly impossible to knock off the puck. His game is built around winning battles and creating havoc in the trenches, which led to him leading the Spitfires in goals (36), assists (54), points (90) and powerplay goals (11) in 64 games this year.

23. Toronto Maple Leafs

Sacha Boisvert, C, Muskegon (USHL)

Boisvert more than doubled his goal total from the previous year, with 36 snipes (along with 32 helpers) in 61 games this year. For the Trois Rivieres, Que. native, the key word is 'maturity.' His leadership was on full display as an alternate captain for this club this year, and he did so while developing into one of the most versatile players in the USHL.

24. Colorado Avalanche

Charlie Elick, D, Brandon (WHL)

Elick was born in Austria and moved to Calgary when he was six years old. A physical defender who takes care of his own end first, he projects to have a long career in a shutdown role. But as an excellent skater with a developing offensive game, the ceiling is sky high.

25. Ottawa Senators (from Boston Bruins via Detroit Red Wings)

Julius Miettinen, C, Everett (WHL)

Miettinen models his game after Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov – and it's easy to see why. The 6-foot-3, 205-lb. Finn – who came to North America and put up 67 points (31G, 36A) this year – led all WHL rookies in faceoff wins with 585. But where his game most closely resembles Barkov's is on the forecheck, where he's often the first man in, shows exceptional puck-protection ability and has a knack for creating chances off the cycle.

26. Montreal Canadiens (from Winnipeg Jets)

Leo Sahlin Wallenius, D, Vaxjo (Sweden-Jr.)

To me, it’s fitting this pick comes from the Winnipeg Jets, as I believe the Habs could target a player in the mold of a current Jet – and perennial Norris contender – Josh Morrissey. Sahlin Wallenius, like Morrissey, isn’t the biggest body (6-foot-3, 176 lbs.), but has plenty of finesse, is mobile and transports the puck with authority, has impeccable vision and his offensive instincts are off the charts. In 43 games last year, Sahlin Wallenius had 11 goals and 42 points.

27. Carolina Hurricanes

Aron Kiviharju, D, HIFK (Finland)

Kiviharju entered the year as a possible Top-10 pick, but a devastating knee injury cost him almost the entire season. He returned in time to represent Finland at the U18s, but showed a bit of rust (understandably) and probably slid down the draft board even further. But when healthy, Kiviharju is an effortless distributor who processes the game at a higher level than most in this year’s class.

28. Calgary Flames (from Vancouver Canucks)

Terik Parascak, RW, Prince George (WHL)

Sometimes, the numbers do all the talking. Parascak led all WHL rookies with 105 points (43G, 62A) in 68 appearances this season, before adding another 14 points (6G, 8A) in 12 playoff games. He has a weapon for a shot and can easily get it off – with precision – in traffic, or with a heavy one-time blast when given time and space. Parascak did have the help of over-ager Zac Funk and Minnesota Wild prospect Riley Heidt, so the challenge will be repeat his offensive dominance next season. But you simply don’t record blinding numbers like that without the requisite tools in your arsenal, and Parascak projects to be a legitimate sniper at the next level, too.

29. Dallas Stars

Henry Mews, D, Ottawa (OHL)

Mews put up scorching numbers from the backend (15-46-61) on a team that finished in the middle of the pack in goals-per-game. He’s an elite powerplay quarterback-in-the-making who has an excellent first pass and covers the ice well with an explosive first step.

30. New York Rangers

Cole Beaudoin, C, Barrie (OHL)

At 6-foot-2 and 209 lbs., Beaudoin is an imposing, play-driving power forward – which is fitting, considering he models his game after Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner. He’s a responsible 200-foot player that competes hard and wins battles by out-muscling his opponents on the forecheck, where much of his offence derives. In 67 games, the Kanata product had 28 goals and 62 points.

31. Anaheim Ducks (via Edmonton)

Jesse Pulkkinen, D, JYP (Finland)

Pulkkinen dominated Finland’s U20 league, recording 11 goals and 28 points in only 18 games, before being promoted to the pro ranks (Liiga) where he had eight points in 29 contests. But here’s the kicker:

At 6-foot-6 and 216 lbs. (!), Pulkkinen is a dominant physical presence.

That blend of size and skill would be enticing for anyone – but especially so at the tail of the first round, when taking a swing in the high-risk/high-reward slot like this should be encouraged.

32. Philadelphia Flyers (via Florida)

Aatos Koivu, C, TPS (Finland Jr.)

Like Tij in the top end of the first round, the Cats will be hoping the bloodlines run strong with this one. The son of Habs legend Saku (and nephew of Mikko), Aatos Koivu brings a nice blend of offence and intelligence. While a tad undersized (6-foot-1, 170 lbs), he plays with plenty of pace and grit, and commands both ends of the ice with a fluid stride and showcases the trademark ‘Koivu Maturity’ with his decision-making. This could be a reach in the first round, but when you believe in the player (and the genes)… take your shot.