Macklin Celebrini talks Friday at the NHL Scouting Combine in LECOM Harborcenter. ©2024, Micheline Velvuolu

NHL Draft: Macklin Celebrini staying in moment, not thinking about Sharks

BUFFALO – College hockey is a man’s game. Sure, there are plenty of teenagers, but of the 64 NCAA Division 1 teams, just one, Boston College, had an average age under 21, according to College Hockey News.

By any standard, Macklin Celebrini, the presumptive first overall pick by the San Jose Sharks at the NHL Draft on June 28, enjoyed a dynamic freshman season in 2023-24.

The ultra-talented center scored 32 goals and 64 points in just 38 games for Boston University. Those gaudy numbers led the Terriers and ranked second and third, respectively, in the country.

Now consider that Celebrini earned the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s top individual honor, at the tender age of 17. He turns 18 on Thursday.

Celebrini attended college early – “I had to take a bunch of classes for grade 11 and 12 and complete the required credits,” he said – because the NCAA offered him the best competition. He spent 2022-23 with the junior United States Hockey League’s Chicago Steel.

“I felt like the level of play (in college) and the whole maturity of the game was really going to help me improve what I needed to work on and help my game,” he said Friday at the NHL Scouting Combine in LECOM Harborcenter. “So I guess all the other school stuff was a bonus.”

Of course, the 6-foot, 190-pound Celebrini appears more than ready to jump into the NHL next season. Still, he doesn’t want to look too far ahead and talk about being picked by the Sharks.

The Vancouver native said “just stay present and try to enjoy it” is the best piece of advice he has received.

“There’s been a lot of talk around that subject and that possibility, for sure,” Celebrini said. “But, I mean, at the end of the day, you never know what’s going to happen, and I don’t think I’m getting to ahead of myself. I don’t think anyone else is going to get too ahead of themselves, too.

“So, for right now, I’m just going to enjoy the last couple days of the combine and enjoy this experience, because I’ve really enjoyed my time here.”

This week, he went out to dinner with San Jose general manager Mike Grier, a popular former Sabres winger who also played at Boston University.

Grier, who’s overseeing a difficult rebuild with the hapless Sharks, made a strong impression on the youngster.

“He’s awesome,” Celebrini said. “… He’s a great person and we had a lot of jokes, so it was cool.”

But Celebrini, whose Terriers reached the Frozen Four this year, left the door open he could return to college for one more season.

“It would just give me a little bit more time to develop,” he said. “There’s never really shame or there’s nothing wrong with just taking your time and just improving a little bit more, getting stronger, getting bigger, getting faster.

“So I feel like in those ways, another year would benefit me just to get more physically ready, and just make sure I’m very fit and strong when I try to make that jump.”

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