Macklin Celebrini combine

The 2024 NHL Scouting Combine took place this week at KeyBank Center and LECOM HarborCenter in Buffalo. The combine allowed 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. was on site to provide all the sights and sounds.

BUFFALO -- The San Jose Sharks interviewed 70-plus players of the 100 invited to the NHL Scouting Combine this week.

It makes sense considering the Sharks, who won the NHL Draft Lottery on May 7, have nine picks, including the No. 1 selection. Boston University center Macklin Celebrini is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft, which will be June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas.

"We're here so we might as well gather the information and I think this is one unique area where you can get access to these kids," Sharks director of amateur scouting Chris Morehouse told the "NHL Draft Class" podcast. "It's your only chance because once they get drafted, they're not NHL property, they're the team's property so for me the combine is more of an information gathering. We're trying to build the most accurate picture of the player. 

"At the same time, we're trying to understand where we're at and what we have."

Here are 10 things learned from the 2024 NHL Scouting Combine:

Prospects headed to Cup Final

Celebrini will be one of four top prospects headed south on Sunday to witness Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

Celebrini, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, will be joined by defenseman Artyom Levshunov of Michigan State University in the Big Ten, forward Cayden Lindstrom of Medicine Hat in the Western Hockey League, and defenseman Zeev Buium of the University of Denver in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The four prospects will also watch the morning skates on Monday prior to the game.

Celebrini-Bedard comparison

In what shouldn't come as much of a surprise, Celebrini and Connor Bedard, chosen No. 1 by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2023 NHL Draft, each have a similar approach to the game.

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson had the pleasure of sitting in on the interview with Bedard at the 2023 combine and was again front-and-center when Celebrini had his chance with Chicago on Tuesday.

"The way they talk about the game, I would say, and the way they talk about their own development, how they want to get better and how seriously they take that side of things I think is very similar," Davidson said. "It seems to be a bit of a shared trait that they're very serious and focused and understanding and clear about what they want to do to continue to get better. Their passion for the work and their passion for the game was pretty uniform, but definitely two different personalities. It was kind of unique to see those two players in back-to-back years."

Prideful prospects

Lindstrom and defenseman Zayne Parekh, each considered a top-10 pick in the 2024 draft, wish to be role models to inspire others of color to play hockey.

"For me, I'm just trying to do as well as I can," Lindstrom said. "There's kids that look up to me every day so I'm trying to set a good example and conduct myself in the right way all the time. For kids out there, it doesn't matter what race you are, honestly, this sport is for everyone. If you're working hard, you can make it to any level you want to.

"When I was younger, seeing a Black guy playing in the (NHL), it would always kind of give me motivation, no matter who the guy was."

Parekh of Memorial Cup champion Saginaw in the Ontario Hockey League is the son of Canadian parents of Indian and South Korean heritage and the youngest of three hockey-playing brothers.

"It means a lot ... just showing that anyone could do it, whether of color or not," said Parekh, No. 5 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. "Just showing younger kids of color and without color that if you put in the work and just grind every day that you can get to get to wherever you want in either sports or in life."

Iggy pop

Tij Iginla, No. 9 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, interviewed with 20 teams this week, including the one for which his dad played 16 NHL seasons.

Jarome Iginla was a mainstay with the Calgary Flames from 1996 to 2013, leading the team in scoring 11 times. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2020 after scoring 1,300 points (625 goals, 675 assists) in 1,554 games with the Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.

Iginla now serves as special advisor to Flames general manager Craig Conroy, but was not present when Calgary interviewed his son.

"Dad took the option on that one, but I know Craig pretty well," Tij Iginla said. "He'd always have some pretty good Christmas Eve gatherings so it was almost a little bit awkward because he's just trying to do it like everybody else but I'm thinking, 'Hey, remember that Christmas Eve party?'"

Calgary has nine picks in the 2024 draft, including two (Nos. 9, 28) in the first round. Tij was asked if he'd feel any pressure if chosen by Calgary.

"That being my dad's main team throughout his career, I think there might be a bit of pressure involved with but it's hard for me to say exactly how it's going to feel," he said. "I mean, Calgary is a good franchise, good organization. I'd definitely feel very lucky to hear my name called by them."

Insight on Cup finalists

Celebrini didn't make a Stanley Cup Final prediction between the Panthers and Oilers, but did have an opinion on what has impressed him most about the finalists.

"Something that I've really noticed from both those teams throughout the playoffs is each side has really bought in to their structure," he said. "Every guy on each roster has bought into playing the right way and playing to win, so that's something that's really cool to see ... they've really bought into their plan.

"Obviously, we don't know what their actual game plan is, but you can tell everyone on each team is on the same page. They've really bought into their team's message and that's something that's cool to see."

First to finish

Michael Brandsegg-Nygard was the first player to complete the array of fitness tests on Saturday.

The 18-year-old right wing (6-1, 198), No. 5 on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of International skaters, had 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 41 games with Mora in HockeyAllsvenkan, the second division in Sweden.

"It was cool to be the first," he said. "Try to like set the standard high."

Brandsegg-Nygard felt the Wingate bike test was the toughest of the bunch and thought he did his best on the long jump. The Oslo, Norway, native didn't have much time to prepare for the testing after representing his country at the 2024 IIHF World Championship in Czechia last month, but had help from his agent and coach in Sweden to prepare for the week of interviews. 

He met with all 32 teams and could be the highest-drafted Norway-born player in NHL history.

Forward Marius Holtet, who was selected by the Dallas Stars in the second round (No. 42) of the 2002 NHL Draft, currently holds the distinction.

"It's been exciting. It's been the most fun season for me," Brandsegg-Nygard said. "Just try to develop and do the best I can, and hopefully go as [high] as I can in the draft."

The World Championship gave him the opportunity to play with Minnesota Wild forward Mats Zuccarello.

"He's been my idol since I was a little kid," Brandsegg-Nygard said. "I watched him so many times on TV so it's cool to know him and play with him."

Connelly looks forward to Providence

Trevor Connelly, No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was in the office of coach Nate Leaman when he committed to play at Providence College in October 2022.

"I was lucky enough to have that opportunity to be in person with Nate in the office and I kind of knew before I went in there that I was going to go there but they kind of didn't have an idea," Connelly said. "When I let him know, it was a special moment. I can't wait to play for him. [Leaman] is such an amazing coach and I'm excited to get there (for 2024-25)."

The 18-year-old left wing with Tri-City of the United States Hockey League ranked second in the league with 78 points (31 goals) and third with 47 assists in 52 games this season. He also had 27 power-play points (10 goals) and scored a shorthanded goal.  
Connelly interviewed with 21 teams this week.

"I was asked different hockey-related questions, different personal questions," Connelly said. "I think they're just trying to see what type of player and what type of person you are, off the ice, and really dive into different details about your game or about your off-ice game."

Commemorating championships

Buium found a unique way to celebrate his three recent hockey championships.

The 18-year-old has a tattoo on his left forearm in Hebrew commemorating the dates he won gold medals with the United States at the 2023 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship, and the NCAA title with Denver this season.

"A lot of the guys got tattoos for the national championship, something on their leg with the trophy," Buium said Saturday. "And some of the guys that went twice have two trophies now. I thought I'd do something cool and add those two [WJC and NCAA], because those obviously meant a lot to me as well."

Buium's older brother, defenseman Shai Buium, was his teammate at Denver, but Zeev said he wasn't sure if Shai had gotten a tattoo as well.

"I don't know," Buium said. "I think he's too scared. I'm a little bit more nails than he is."

The lion king

Harrison Brunicke could turn out to be the only hockey defenseman to have something in common with former NHL goalie Olaf Kolzig.

Brunicke (6-2, 184), a right-handed shot with Kamloops of the Western Hockey League, and Kolzig, who played 17 NHL seasons, were each born in South Africa before moving to Canada. Brunicke moved to Calgary when he was 2 years old.

"I mean, it would be pretty special to be just the second player born in South Africa to ever play in the NHL," Brunicke said. "Hockey isn't a big sport in South Africa, but my whole family is there. So, you know, to come to Canada and to play the sport would be pretty special for sure."

Brunicke, No. 52 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 49 games before missing the final 14 regular-season games due to injury. He won a gold medal with Canada at the 2024 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.

Emery chooses ice over gridiron

Eric Emery (6-3, 185) might be playing football if hockey didn't pan out.

"Football was definitely right there but the passion for hockey kind of just took over," the right-shot defenseman of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 Team said.

Emery was a running back, safety and wide receiver until the age of 13 when he hung up his cleats. His football background stems from his father, Eric, a linebacker in the Canadian Football League in the 1980s.

"When dad went to his first ever hockey game, there was a line brawl and after that, he was pretty stoked for me playing hockey games," Emery said with a big grin. "Dad was an athletic freak. Just the way he can move and how fast he was; he was a tough dude."

Emery, committed to the University of North Dakota in 2024-25, is No. 39 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. He had 16 assists in 61 games with the NTDP this season and six assists in seven games for silver medal-winning United States at the 2024 U-18 Worlds. deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman and independent correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report

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