Macklin Celebrini and the No. 3 Boston University Terriers will return to the TD Garden ice on Monday to battle Northeastern in the title game of the 71st men’s Beanpot tournament.
This time next year, Celebrini might be back on Causeway Street — but draped in an NHL sweater.
The freshman phenom has played a large role in the Terriers’ impressive 2023-24 season, and could find himself at the top of the NHL Draft leaderboard in a few months.
Ahead of a Beanpot title bout between the Terriers and Huskies, here are five things to know about Celebrini — who could be the next pro hockey phenom this fall.
He’s widely considered the top prospect in the 2024 NHL Draft.
He might just be 17 years old, but Celebrini has been perched atop the 2024 NHL Draft leaderboard for over a year now.
As noted by Celebrini’s Elite Prospects page, he’s tabbed as No. 1 prospect in his draft class over 15 different draft rankings — including TSN’s Craig Button’s latest list and NHL Central Scouting’s North American grouping.
It’s a top ranking that’s not without merit for Celebrini.
Even though he hails from North Vancouver, British Columbia, he played prep hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s — a boarding school in Minnesota whose alumni include NHL stars like Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, and many others.
Celebrini scored 50 goals and posted a whopping 117 points in just 52 games during his final year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 2021-22.
He then made the leap to the United States Hockey League (USHL) — scoring 46 goals and posting 86 points in 50 games during his lone season with the Chicago Steel. Just 16 years old at the time, Celebrini was named the USHL Rookie of the Year, Forward of the Year, and Player of the Year for his efforts.
“To dominate in the USHL at 16 years old is remarkable,” Steel head coach and general manager Mike Garman said of Celebrini’s play in a team release. “In addition to being a phenomenal player, Mack is a true leader and great teammate. He generates high-quality scoring chances in all situations and finds ways to put his teammates in great positions all over the ice.
“He’s extremely competitive and relentlessly wins puck battles. Mack is an incredible combination of skill, hockey IQ, and competitiveness.”
And with Celebrini — now the youngest player in college hockey — dominating at the next tier of competition, it feels like a foregone conclusion that the gifted goal-scorer will be the first name off the board in late June during the upcoming draft.
“The top five players in the 2024 draft class are a very strong group but there was no debate over who was No. 1,” NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr told NHL.com of the latest prospect rankings. “Celebrini’s an NHL All-Star in the making having displayed his NHL skills and attributes on the world stage, as a 17-year-old with Canada’s World Junior Championship team and while leading Boston University and Hockey East in scoring.
“He is playing at an enviable level all on his own and it’s truly impressive how he’s able to thrive in every environment he plays.”
He’s stuffed the stat sheet at BU.
Armed with an NHL-ready shot and poised playmaking capabilities, Celebrini has thrived so far in his first foray against collegiate competition.
A game-breaking offensive threat for the Terriers, Celebrini has scored 22 goals and posted 41 points in just 25 games with BU so far this year. He’s fourth nationally in scoring among NCAA skaters, with only Boston College’s Gabe Perreault (43 points in 26 games) ahead of him in scoring among freshmen.
Celebrini, who became the first player since at least the 2005-06 season to score 22 goals in his first 25 collegiate games, is entering Monday’s Beanpot championship on a heater. He’s lit the lamp in eight of his last 10 games.
Celebrini played a major role in BU’s hard-fought win over No. 1 BC during the semifinal round of the 71st Beanpot. He scored twice in the span of 2:10 during the opening period of play — beating the Eagles’ star goalie, Jacob Fowler, by way of a sharp wrist shot and a blistering one-timer on the power play.
He’s drawn some lofty NHL comparisons.
Celebrini’s elite release and offensive-zone talents are easy to glean whenever he hops over the boards.
But NHL Draft evaluators like Button have also praised Celebrini’s hockey IQ and two-way skillset — with Button comparing the young skater to one of the most accomplished NHL centermen in recent memory.
“When I watch him, all I see is Jonathan Toews,” Button said of Celebrini in a TSN scouting preview last fall. “That’s exactly as I describe him in the scouting report and as I watch him. That’s the type of player I see — a difference maker.
“And that’s so many different ways. It can be taking a defensive-zone faceoff, it can be on the penalty kill. … There is nothing that this young man is not capable of doing in the game, and that is exactly what Jonathan Toews did as the captain of a three-time Stanley Cup champion.”
Button’s TSN colleague, Bob McKenzie, added in the same report that Celebrini may not be a generational talent like a Crosby or Connor McDavid. Still, the young forward’s refined skills and high ceiling offer the promise of a franchise fixture for whatever team eventually takes him in the upcoming draft.
“He’s not Connor Bedard. He’s not Connor McDavid. But he has all the tools to be a dominant, point-producing center in the National Hockey League,” McKenzie noted.
He’s playing alongside his brother in Boston.
Even though Celebrini is currently playing over 3,000 miles from home, he does have some company on Commonwealth Ave.
Macklin’s older brother, Aiden, is also in the midst of his freshman season with the Terriers. While Macklin is a sharpshooting centerman, Aiden is a hard-hitting defenseman who has appeared in 23 games with BU so far this season.
Aiden, who also played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s for two seasons, has already heard his name called at the NHL Draft — with his hometown team, the Canucks, selecting him in the sixth round of the 2023 NHL Draft.
Macklin and Aiden might eventually meet as opponents in the NHL ranks. But for now, they’re welcoming this latest opportunity to don the same sweater.
“I just like playing with [Aiden] and just having someone I can always rely on,” Macklin told BU Today about playing alongside his brother. “Oftentimes when you go into a new environment it’s difficult to get settled, but right away I felt like I had someone here that I could talk to. And since it’s both of our first experience, we just kind of got through it together.”
His decision to join BU might have been influenced by … the 2022 NBA Finals?
Celebrini spent most of his childhood around pro athletes, given his father’s line of work.
Rick Celebrini has long served as a sports medicine and performance coach, working with teams like the Canucks, Seattle Seahawks, Vancouver Whitecaps and more.
“Some of the best athletes in the world,” Macklin said of learning from his dad in a piece from the Canadian Press. “He relays the messages — what to do and what not to do. How important the little details are and how can it change your whole process.”
Rick Celebrini now serves as the vice president of player health and performance for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. And when the Warriors were in Boston for Games 3 and 4 of the 2022 NBA Finals, BU head coach Jay Pandolfo made his move to try and speak with Rick about his son’s collegiate plans.
“If we could ever get a Macklin Celebrini, we were certainly going to try,” Pandolfo noted. “Ended up meeting with Rick. The relationship built from there.”
When the Warriors returned to TD Garden in what ended up being a series-clinching Game 6, Rick brought his whole family along for the trip — which also served as Macklin’s first (and only) recruiting trip out to Boston.
“Wasn’t really thinking about Boston schools,” Macklin noted. “Then we visited, met all the coaches, and it was pretty set from there.”
Source: Boston Globe
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