San Jose Sharks win NHL draft lottery for first time ever

Sharks expected to take North Vancouver’s Macklin Celebrini with first overall pick

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The San Jose Sharks won the draft lottery on Tuesday and general manager Mike Grier already has an idea of who he’ll be selecting with the No. 1 pick: North Vancouver-born centre Macklin Celebrini.

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“I would think so, yeah,” Grier said when asked if he anticipates using the top pick on the 17-year-old forward, college hockey’s youngest Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner and NHL Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked prospect.

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The Sharks retained their position in the lottery and are scheduled to pick first in the NHL draft for the first time in franchise history following a season in which they finished last in the overall standings.

Though from British Columbia, Celebrini is no stranger to the Bay Area or Grier, who also played at Boston University.

“I was thrilled. It’s a big moment for the organization and the fans here to have the opportunity to draft someone like Macklin,” Grier said. “It was a tough year for us. To have this opportunity, we couldn’t be more excited.”

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Celebrini’s father, Rick Celebrini, is currently vice-president of player health and performance for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and the youngster spent a year playing for the Sharks’ junior team.

“Obviously, they’re a great organization. If I’m fortunate enough to get drafted there, I’d be very lucky,” the younger Celebrini said.

San Jose had an 18.5% chance to win the lottery, and a 25.5% chance to pick first.

The lottery proved anticlimactic with no changes to the draft order. The Chicago Blackhawks, who selected Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick last year, retained the No. 2 selection, followed by the Anaheim Ducks. The Montreal Canadiens have the No. 5 pick, the Ottawa Senators got No. 7 and the Calgary Flames will select at No. 9.

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It marked the first time since the 2010 draft lottery that the order of selection went unchanged. The NHL’s newest market, Utah, stayed put at No. 6. Salt Lake City landed an NHL franchise with the relocation of the Arizona Coyotes last month.

The league on Tuesday also announced what has been in the works for some time: the draft will be held at the Sphere in Las Vegas June 28 and 29. It’ll be the first event televised at the venue.

This marked just the second time in franchise history — and first since San Jose’s inaugural season in 1991-92 — the Sharks finished last overall in the NHL standings. In missing the playoffs for a fifth straight season, the Sharks are in a total rebuild mode entering their third off-season under Grier. San Jose is coming off a season in which its 19 wins were the third-fewest in team history in a full NHL season.

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Grier fired coach David Quinn last month, and previously began overhauling his roster by trading high-priced stars such as Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Timo Meier.

The lottery results also led to the Sharks securing a second first-round pick, No. 14 overall and held by Pittsburgh. San Jose acquired the selection in a trade that sent Karlsson to the Penguins, who had the right to retain the selection only if it landed in the top 10 of the draft order

Celebrini completed a season in which he finished third among Division I skaters with 64 points (32 goals, 32 assists) in 68 games and earned both Hockey East’s player and rookie of the year honours.

Listed at 6-feet and 190 pounds, he has the opportunity to become just the fourth NCAA player — and second forward — to be selected first overall, and first since Michigan defenceman Owen Power went No. 1 to Buffalo in 2021. The only other college forward drafted first was Michigan State’s Joe Murphy by Detroit in 1986.

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Celebrini was college hockey’s youngest player last season and is regarded as being a “strong skater with a fluid stride, elusive speed and quickness,” according to a Central Scouting report.

“He possesses that rare, elite ability to thrive with his skills and smarts while competing with a consistent passion to face every challenge head on and generate results, all the while making himself a better player,” said Central Scouting chief Dan Marr.

Michigan freshman defenceman Artyom Levshunov, who is from Belarus, is ranked second among North American prospects, followed by Medicine Hat Tigers centre Cayden Lindstrom.

Central Scouting’s top European skater is 6-foot-7 defenceman Anton Silayev, from Sarov, Russia.

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