Celebrini Hobey Baker family split image with tune in

The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a look at center Macklin Celebrini of Boston University in Hockey East. NHL.com's full draft coverage can be found here.

Macklin Celebrini should be celebrated for all he accomplished on the ice as the youngest player in NCAA Division I men's hockey with Boston University this season.

But there's more to this story because the relentlessness shown by the two-way center during rehabilitation after shoulder surgery just short of five months prior to making his college hockey debut as a 17-year-old might have been even more impressive.

It's that part that seems to be forgotten.

"I feel like that rehab was probably the hardest thing I've faced in my career, so far," Celebrini said. "The offseason was a lot different; more so than any other. It was a lot more rehabilitation after surgery and it was difficult. It was all about getting the fundamentals back, working on getting my hand strength and shot back to the level that I was before. I feel like I did a good job."

“Good job” might be an understatement. But that competitive verve has defined Celebrini at every level and each stage of his life to reach this point of his hockey career.

He's been the projected No. 1 pick in the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft all season and is expected to go to the San Jose Sharks, who have the first choice and are in desperate need of elite talent and star power. The Chicago Blackhawks hold the No. 2 selection, and the Anaheim Ducks have the No. 3 pick.

Celebrini, who turned 18 on June 13, was the youngest player to win the Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the top NCAA men's hockey player. He finished second in the NCAA with 32 goals and was third with 64 points in 38 games for the Terriers. He was named Hockey East Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, joining Jack Eichel (2015), Paul Kariya (1993) and Brian Leetch (1987) as the only players to win those awards in the same season.

Celebrini, born in Vancouver, opted to advance his development via a United States pipeline, playing Tier 1 AAA hockey for the Junior Sharks, prep school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota and with Chicago of the United States Hockey League before joining BU this season.

How did it come together? It starts with family.

Mack Aiden small and Pats jersey

Surrounded by athletes

Celebrini learned early the value of hard work and commitment. He grew up in North Vancouver in a home of athletes that included older brother and Boston University teammate Aiden, 19, a defenseman; younger sister Charlie, 15,  a competitive tennis player; and youngest brother R.J., 11, who splits time between the Tri-Valley Bulls in the Bay Area and with the HPL Flyers, an elite development hockey group in Vancouver.

Rick Celebrini, Macklin's father, was a collegiate soccer player. He represented Canada in the 1987 World Under-20 Youth Championship and the 1987 Pan American Games, and played for the senior national team. He played professionally for the Edmonton Brickmen and the Vancouver 86ers (now the Vancouver Whitecaps). He recently concluded his sixth season with the NBA's Golden State Warriors, the last three as vice president, player health and performance. Rick also spent four years as director of rehabilitation with the Vancouver Canucks, seven years as director of sports medicine and science for the Whitecaps and was a consultant with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.

Mack basketball final

Robyn Celebrini, the family matriarch, was also a soccer standout who was captain of the women's team at the University of British Columbia.

"My bias was soccer, and I coached the boys in soccer, but after moving so close to the North Shore Winter Club (after Aiden was born), it was inevitable that we get kind of swept up in the whole hockey scene," Rick said. "The first time we had [Macklin] on the ice, he just took to it. He didn't want any help or skating lessons. He wanted to kind of learn it on his own and right away you began to realize he wanted to be a hockey player."

Robyn remembers Macklin's first skating lesson like it was yesterday.

"He insisted on wearing his whole hockey gear to his first lesson and he couldn't understand where the pucks were and why people were trying to help teach him," she said. "He wanted to do it himself. ... He's been stubborn and very focused from the very beginning."

It was at North Shore where Celebrini was introduced to Billy Coupland, who coached Celebrini for six years at the club. Developing elite young talent wasn't new to Coupland, who previously mentored future NHL players Kyle Turris, Evander Kane, Kent Johnson and Connor Bedard, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Coupland’s most recent protege, forward Gavin McKenna, is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2026 NHL Draft.


"The Celebrinis didn't live too far from us, and Macklin and my son (Ty) were really good buddies growing up," Coupland said. "I remember going to Whole Foods and we bought these big 1-liter cups of yogurt, and Macklin and Ty sat down and were in such competition with each other, they finished this big 1-liter cup. But Macklin decided he was going to go one step further and crush a second 1-liter cup. ... Just crazy things like that where he was just such a competitive, unique kid.

"When I was coaching ‘Mac’ in a spring tournament, we're playing in the final and we beat the team 6-5 and Mac scored five goals ... as a defenseman."

It was as a forward, however, that Celebrini was most impactful.

"There was one play where Macklin (at 5 years old) sort of missed on a netfront chance and went behind the goal," Rick Celebrini said. "The opposition went back the other way and Macklin kind of awkwardly skated the length of the ice, past all the kids and sort of dove on his belly to swipe the puck away off the kid's stick at the last second. [Coupland] came up to me after the game and said, 'Man, I haven't seen a GAF like that in years.' I said, 'GAF? What does that mean?' He's like, 'Give a [expletive].'

"When I played soccer with him, I'd try to keep the ball away from him in our backyard using my bare feet when he was 5 or 6 years old and he would literally be snarling and grunting, pulling at my shorts to get at the ball. The other kids would sort of give up after a few minutes, but not Macklin."


The family also recalls moments when Macklin and Aiden were on the same team and Macklin, nearly 20 months younger, would approach the bigger kids who dared to take pokes at his brother and tell them, “That's your last chance. Don't do it again.”

There also was the moment Rick and Robyn first noticed how important hockey was to Macklin.

"I think he was 7 years old,” Rick said. “... I remember him taking a face-off and he's looking up at the clock and looking over at the other bench to see if they're going to pull their goalie. He was kind of positioning guys on his team, and I thought that was unusual for a kid that age."

American made

The Celebrinis moved to San Jose a short time after Rick was hired by the Warriors prior to the 2018-19 season. It allowed Macklin and Aiden an opportunity to develop within the Junior Sharks program while their dad worked an hour away.

Three years later, the family moved to a 4.5-acre ranch in Livermore, California, complete with a tennis court for Charlie and a barn that had a gym and shooting pad for the boys. The place was also eight minutes from the local rink in town.

Celebrini played for the Junior Sharks Under-14 team in 2019-20 before ultimately deciding to continue his career at renowned Minnesota prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's.

Creative Artists Agency player agent Pat Brisson and Jim Hughes, the father of NHL players Quinn Hughes, Jack Hughes and Luke Hughes, suggested that Macklin attend the school.

"We never thought about a prep school because it's not really part of the thought process or thinking growing up in Canada," Rick said. "I think Macklin and Aiden both had dreams of playing in the Western Hockey League, but we actually went out and visited Shattuck. I remember it was sort of a classic kind of winter day there, the snow was falling, and Shattuck coach Tom Ward was telling us stories about alums (and eventual NHL players) Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise and Jonathan Toews.

"Macklin and Aiden came away from that weekend saying, 'We want to go.'"

Ward said, "We heard Macklin was kind of the next coming of something. We've had really good luck with our blue-blood Canadian kids here. We're lucky we've had some really good ones and Macklin had a chance to follow in their footsteps, and in his time here, he did."

Celebrini up ice

Celebrini had 141 points (51 goals, 90 assists) in 50 games with Shattuck's Under-14 team in 2020-21, then had 117 points (50 goals, 67 assists) in 52 games with the varsity prep team the following season.

"The experience at Shattuck was one of the most important times in my life with COVID and everything that was going on in the world," Macklin said. "Shattuck was able to keep us playing, keep us skating together and we had a really special team that first year when COVID was at its peak."

What did Ward learn as Macklin's coach?

"He's so in love with the game and hungry to learn, a quality in all the great players we've had since I've been here (since 1999-2000)," Ward said. "Macklin's got a lot of the qualities that many former Shattuck players have had, but he's got work to do. He isn't going to be guaranteed anything at this point other than a chance, but he can blend in with the best of them. 

"Macklin reminds me a lot of Johnny Toews because he's got a little Captain Serious (Toews’ nickname) in him, which I love and is a great quality. As a younger player, he could hold the entire team accountable to play in the way that we wanted to play and he wasn't afraid of doing it. But it wasn't, 'I'm doing it right, you guys are doing it wrong, look at me.' That's not how you lead. He always was able to do what he wanted to do and do it the right way for our team."

Celebrini met some lifelong friends at Shattuck, including teammate Cole Eiserman, who is a projected first-round pick in the 2024 draft after he had 89 points (58 goals, 31 assists) in 57 games this season with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team. The forward is No. 12 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.


After Shattuck, Celebrini set out for Chicago to compete against bigger and stronger competition in the USHL. He didn't just compete, he dominated, becoming the second player in league history to win Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Forward of the Year honors in the same season. He set the record for most points (86) by an under-17 player in USHL history and led the league with 46 goals in 50 games in 2022-23.

"He had success with Chicago, so it was like, why not go to college as an underage player since he was having that consistent success at each level," Rick said. "If he had struggled in Chicago, he probably would have stayed there another season."

A race to recovery

Celebrini established his USHL records while playing with an injury to his right shoulder that he sustained early that season.

In April 2023, he reinjured the shoulder after getting hit while representing Canada at the 2023 IIHF Under-18 World Championship in Switzerland. Despite the pain, he scored 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in seven games, scoring in overtime in the bronze-medal game against Slovakia. He matched Canada's single-tournament points record (Tyson Jost, 2016), besting Bedard, Shane Wright and Connor McDavid.

Upon his return to Chicago for the Clark Cup Playoffs, Celebrini opted for season-ending surgery after he was unable to continue because of pain and instability.

"We knew he was going to require surgery after the playoffs, but he wanted to try to get through the playoffs," Rick said. "He took a couple hits and then the shoulder subluxed (popped out) during a face-off, and he knew he was done for the playoffs."

The left-handed shot had a procedure done by Dr. Peter Millett in Vail, Colorado, to repair a tear in his shoulder on May 15, 2023.

Rick said there was no alternative to surgery.

“Because he already made the commitment to go to BU and knew the jump as a 17-year-old playing against much heavier and physical players, especially in Hockey East, we tried to get it done as soon as possible," Rick said. "After the surgery it was, ‘How well prepared can we get him before the season starts?'"

Fortunately for Macklin, this happened to be his father’s area of expertise.

"His upper body was limited by the surgery, but we started working the lower body probably five days after surgery," Rick said. "He did a ton on the bike when he couldn't really use his arm. ... He couldn't be on the ice for 16 weeks after surgery. He'd go to the gym and would be there for hours, stick-handling with his other hand and doing whatever he could for his lower body, chipping away while not compromising the shoulder."

Macklin Celebrini's rehabilitation process

Boston University coach Jay Pandolfo said, "Just because it's your shoulder doesn't mean you can't do stuff with your legs, whatever it may be, and I think he was on top of all those things. He's fortunate to have his dad but he also had a willingness to put in the work and really do whatever it took. That's just how he's wired as an individual."

Celebrini wasn't able to use the arm attached to the surgically repaired shoulder until six weeks after the procedure. 

"He could slowly start to move it, and then it was progressive strength and range of motion from there," Rick said. "When he finally got on the ice, he was under the gun, so he was like a caged animal at that point and just put in a ton of hours."

He couldn't engage in any on-ice contact until mid-September. Boston University's opener was Oct. 7. 

"In late August, he got to the point where he could shoot but you're still not in a situation where you can have any contact of basically not being able to do anything live to jumping into college,” Rick said. "... That's where we were. The BU coaches kept saying, 'Let's be patient and he'll be ready when he's ready.'

"But he was ready for that first game."

In his collegiate debut, Celebrini had a goal and an assist in BU’s 3-2 overtime win against Bentley University.

"Mac wasn't trying to get better last summer, he was trying to get back to where he was," Coupland said. "Rehabilitation, by definition, means you are literally trying to get back to where you were. Fact is, you don't hear a lot of people talking about how Mac basically had a lost summer (of training), and for him to be able to go and just completely hit the ground running is ridiculous and just speaks to him."

Celebrini played 43 games after shoulder surgery. 

"The plan was to try and be ready for the college opener," Celebrini said. "I feel like it was always up in the air to kind of keep it low key and kind of give me some more time just to make sure I was ready for that first day. But throughout the summer, that was the goal, and I worked towards that goal."

Celebrini rehab split

He played 38 games with BU and five more with Canada at the IIHF 2024 World Junior Championship, where he had eight points (four goals, four assists). He attended and did all testing at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo this month, too.

"I remember Connor McDavid talking about when he had that knee injury in the last game of the (2018-19) season and said he spent the entire summer rehabbing and that it wasn't until his rehab was completed that he was able to get into full preparation mode," said Craig Button, TSN resident director of scouting and former NHL general manager. "So, what Macklin was able to do this season at BU was massively impressive."

Future forecast

Celebrini said he'll decide after the draft whether he'll return to BU.

"A decision will probably come then and depending on where I go, that's kind of what's going to determine my decision," Celebrini said. "I've had conversations with Coach Pandolfo and he's supportive with whatever I choose to do. He wants me to come back, and I'd love to come back, but he's been great in supporting me in whatever I decide."

Make no mistake, though, Celebrini has the look of a franchise player and future NHL All-Star.

"He competes with himself, competes with others, but that's just how he is," said Pandolfo, a former forward who played 899 NHL games from 1996-2013. "I think that's what makes him a special player but I think that's going to serve him very well in the National Hockey League. The one thing that stood out to me when speaking 1-on-1 with the players during our end-of-season meetings was how much his teammates think so highly of him -- never mind as a player, but as a person, and that goes such a long way.

"When I began talking about leadership with each player, Macklin's name was getting brought up left and right by our current players because he dragged our group into the fight, even in practice. He doesn't take a shift off, he doesn't take a drill off, and that pulls other guys along. And that's not easy to do ... I don't care how good you are."

Celebrini led Hockey East with 44 points and also was the first BU forward to score at least 30 goals in a season since Chris Drury had 38 as a junior in 1996-97.

"His joy when he would be out on the ice would be so evident,” Coupland said, “and that's not always the case because there's lots of kids out there who, when they first start, especially in Canada, it's what your dad did, this is what a Canadian kid is supposed to do. ... He's supposed to play hockey. Then you have kids like Macklin who are so passionate about it, their smile just comes right through their facemask."

It's an attitude and mindset he acquired from a select few people, particularly his mother.


"Honestly, she's the anchor, and doesn't get enough credit," Rick said of Robyn. "I worked a ton and would be bounced around between hockey, soccer, football, the athletic development center, and Robyn really had all four kids bouncing around from rink to rink, soccer field to soccer field, tennis court to tennis court. She was the one that raised four young toddlers, and Macklin was the handful of all four kids in a fun, positive way.

"She always provided the nonhockey, nonsports outlet for the kids, and they love just hanging with her. They've got such a close relationship. I'm the one always talking about their last game or what they need to be doing, training-wise, and I can't turn that off. Robyn's a great reprieve from me and my incessive behavior."

It's worth noting that Celebrini was able to play at BU at his age because he accelerated, completing his high school classes and scoring well on the SAT as a 16-year-old.  

"This was one of the things he wanted to do to challenge himself and he said, 'I want to go to college, but I want to see if I can go as an underage player,'" Rick said. "We set out with the help of BU to map out an academic plan, so while he was playing for Chicago, he finished grade 11 around Christmas 2022, and then finished grade 12."

Celebrini is the fourth Terriers player to win the Hobey Baker Award, joining Drury (1998), Matt Gilroy (2009) and Eichel (2015).

"To do what he did as an underage player is crazy," said Gilroy, who won the award in his senior season. "I watched a game earlier in the season and the craziest thing is that he has the trust in the coaches not only to be in the game when they need a goal, but at the end of the game he was the center that Pandolfo was throwing on the ice. It just shows the maturity level of that kid, and I think he's going to be a special player moving forward for sure." 

Celebrini also was named the Tim Taylor National Rookie of the Year, chosen as the New England Rookie of the Year and honored as a First Team All-American by the American Hockey Coaches Association. 

"If it is San Jose that ends up drafting him, they're getting a special player but also a special person that you certainly build an organization around," Pandolfo said. "I think guys on our team sensed pretty quickly that he was different. Some were even taken aback like, 'Wow, he isn't going to give an inch.' He was [ticking] some of the older guys off, but they realized quickly, 'Oh, this guy is so good it doesn't matter what we're doing, he's going to give it everything he's got.' Once they figured it out, they knew what they'd be dealing with.

"He's very enjoyable to be around and his teammates would tell you the same thing. He's driven, no question about it."

One player familiar with what Celebrini might be experiencing is Bedard. The two were teammates in 2014-15 as members of the North Shore Winter Club Under-10 team.

Mack Bedard champions highlighted

They, along with team captain Aiden Celebrini, helped the Vancouver-based club win a league championship as two of the youngest standouts that season, and since then have occasionally skated together when they’ve returned home to Western Canada.

Bedard, a center who was the No. 1 pick by the Blackhawks in the 2023 NHL Draft, is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year after leading first-year players with 61 points (22 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games.

"I played with him when I was 8 or 9 years old, so I've always known him," Bedard said of Celebrini. "He's always been a really good player. He moved down to California around 12. Then, he just kept growing and kept developing. Obviously, he's a special talent. One team's going to be really lucky to get him, and he's going to dominate the League."

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