celebrini eye on draft

The 2024 NHL Scouting Combine is taking place this week at KeyBank Center and LECOM HarborCenter in Buffalo. The combine will allow NHL teams an opportunity to conduct interviews and provide physical and medical assessments of the top prospects eligible for the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft. NHL.com will bring you all the sights and sounds.

BUFFALO -- There's an outside chance the three youngest players in NCAA Division I men's hockey this season will become the first collegiate trio to be chosen among the top four picks in an NHL Draft.

Eyes will be on Sphere in Las Vegas, site of the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft on June 28-29. The first round is on June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS), and Rounds 2-7 are on June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1).

Macklin Celebrini of Boston University in Hockey East, Arytom Levshunov of Michigan State University in the Big Ten and Zeev Buium of the University of Denver in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference are attending the NHL Scouting Combine this week and were on full display during media availability here Friday.

"I loved my year in college," Celebrini said. "It was amazing and I had a lot of fun. [Levshunov and Buium] are pretty special players as well, so it was fun to watch them all year and watch them have the success that they've had."

The three collegians were joined by forward Cayden Lindstrom of Medicine Hat in the Western Hockey League and defenseman Zayne Parekh with Memorial Cup champion Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League.

Celebrini (6-foot, 190 pounds), No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was the youngest player in NCAA Division I men's hockey this season at 17 years old and the youngest ever to win the Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the top NCAA men's hockey player. He was second among NCAA players with 32 goals and third with 64 points in 38 games for the Terriers.

"Levshunov's a pretty special player, smooth skater and a wizard with the puck," Celebrini said. "It was a lot of fun to play against him and see the things he's done at the college level. I saw Zeev at the end of the year and saw him at the 2024 World Junior Championship. I was blown away when I saw him at the Frozen Four (NCAA semifinal round). I felt like he was the best player on the ice, so it's been really cool to see that ... but don't let him know I said that."

Celebrini's press conference at the Scouting Combine

Denver defeated Boston University 2-1 in overtime in the semifinals in April, then won the championship with a 2-0 victory against Boston College two days later. Buium also won a gold medal for the United States at the 2024 WJC.

Levshunov (6-2, 208), the third youngest, is No. 2 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. He ranked second nationally among first-year defensemen and tied for 10th overall at his position with 35 points (nine goals, 26 assists) in 38 games. The 18-year-old right-handed shot led the Big Ten with a plus-27 rating while playing a top defense pair all season.

"College hockey was just good for my development," Levshunov said. "I spent one season in Green Bay in the United States Hockey League and decided to go to college after that season. I thought it'd be good for my development, for my growth."

Buium (6-foot, 183), the second youngest -- he won't turn 19 until Dec. 7 -- ranked first in the nation among defensemen and fifth among freshmen with 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 42 games for the NCAA national champion. He is No. 4 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

"Obviously, college hockey is growing over the last however many years and there's just better players coming in now," Buium said. "I think it's really cool for us to kind of be the frontrunners of that, I guess, if you want to call it that. But we haven't been drafted yet; we're still waiting. I think anything can kind of happen, but it's still really cool to be here with the two of them. They're obviously both great guys."

Buium and Levshunov answer questions at the Combine

The last time three college players were selected among the top five was when defenseman Owen Power (No. 1, Buffalo Sabres), forward Matty Beniers (No. 2, Seattle Kraken), and forward Kent Johnson (No. 5, Columbus Blue Jackets), each of the University of Michigan, were chosen in the 2021 NHL Draft.

Prior to Power and Beniers, the only other time two active NCAA players were taken with the first two picks was the 2000 NHL Draft, when goalie Rick DiPietro (No. 1, New York Islanders; Boston University) and forward Dany Heatley (No. 2, Atlanta Thrashers; University of Wisconsin) were picked.

Parekh, No. 5 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, had a quick turnaround after Saginaw defeated London 4-3 in the Memorial Cup final Sunday. He attended the parade through downtown Saginaw, Michigan, on Monday and arrived at the combine on Tuesday evening.

"I got a couple of couple days with my guys back in [Saginaw], but it's been fun at the combine," he said. "I think the biggest question I was asked is, can I defend in the NHL? And my answer has been the same ... I truly believe that I'm going to get to the point where I'm a capable defender. It might take a little bit for me, but I believe in myself and believe in my ability."

Lindstrom, meanwhile, remains a top option in this draft as a power forward despite missing 36 regular-season games due to injury this season. He's No. 3 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.

"I think the most popular question the teams have asked me is just about my playmaking ability," Lindstrom said. "And I have full confidence in my playmaking ability. As far as my injury, I'm feeling great. I'm working out five or six times a week, skating three-to-four times a week. Everything's going well and I'm healing up pretty quickly."

Lindstrom and Parekh answer questions at the Scouting Combine

Related Content