Bedard on Celebrini split image

Connor Bedard has taken notice of Macklin Celebrini, and the Chicago Blackhawks center is impressed with the forward projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

“I’ve watched some of his highlights and stuff and seen clips and the [IIHF] World Junior [Championship] I watched pretty closely,” Bedard, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, said Saturday. “He’s a special player and what he’s doing this year is remarkable.

“I don’t know if it’s been done at his age, obviously going as an underage and probably being one of the Hobey [Baker] finalists, I’m sure he’ll be up there if not win it. It’s been exciting to watch a guy like that. The NHL’s probably pretty excited about him coming in.”

At 17 years old, Celebrini, who like Bedard is from North Vancouver, British Columbia, has excelled as a freshman at Boston University. He’s second among NCAA Division I players with 31 goals in 35 games behind Anaheim Ducks forward prospect Cutter Gauthier of Boston College (35). The center is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters eligible for the 2024 draft, and No. 1 on's midseason list of top draft-eligible players this season.

Boston University lost 6-2 to Boston College in the Hockey East title game Saturday but earned an at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Celebrini was named one of 10 candidates Wednesday for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, presented annually to recognize the top NCAA men’s hockey player. The three finalists will be revealed April 4, and the winner will be announced on April 12 (6 p.m. ET; NHLN), the day before the NCAA national championship game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, on April 13.

The Blackhawks currently have a 13.5 percent of winning the 2024 NHL Draft Lottery, second to the San Jose Sharks at 25.5 percent. Asked about the possibility of being Celebrini’s teammate, Bedard said, “Like I said, we’re all focused on today.”

Chicago (21-46-5) won 5-4 in overtime at San Jose on Saturday and defeated the Calgary Flames 3-1 at home Tuesday.

Bedard can relate to the talk surrounding Celebrini. Entering last summer, Bedard was the most highly touted draft pick since Connor McDavid, who the Edmonton Oilers selected No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Bedard has lived up to expectations; despite missing nearly six weeks with a broken jaw sustained against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 5, the 18-year-old is leading the Blackhawks and all NHL rookies with 56 points (21 goals, 35 assists) in 58 games. Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber is second among rookies with 40 points (seven goals, 33 assists) in 73 games.

So, does Bedard have any advice for Celebrini as he prepares for the NHL?

“Don’t listen to you guys, I guess?” Bedard said to the media to laughs. “No, just play the game, have fun. That’s kind of the main thing.

“There’s so much that goes on outside that’s great, but honestly some of it isn’t that much fun. When you actually get on the ice and you’re just doing what you love, that’s the best part of your day. So, that’s kind of how I approach it.”

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