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The Leafs Nation’s 2024 NHL Mock Draft: Picks 1-10

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Photo credit:Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
26 days ago
If you’re the type of hockey fan who consumes hockey around the calendar and not just when the Cup Final is on or your favourite team is playing, then you’re about to head into somewhat of a dream weekend. With the playoffs just wrapping up on Monday, we’ve got the draft coming up on Friday and Saturday, a brief off-day on Sunday, and the opening of free agency on Monday. It’s transaction heaven, and you don’t have to pray to read them.
Like 2023, the 2024 draft features a top prospect who’s guaranteed to end up with the team picking first. It wasn’t that way back in 2022 when the first pick could have been anyone between Juraj Slafkovsky, Shane Wright, or Logan Cooley, so this is the second year in a row where I’m confident I’ll get at least one pick right. After that, it’s open season.
With the June 28 draft approaching quickly, this marks the start of my new mock draft series for The Leafs Nation. The series will be split into three parts, and because the Maple Leafs don’t pick until 23rd, we won’t get to them until the final of the three parts. That said, if you’re interested in how I think the rest of the draft will shape out, I’m happy to have you along for the ride.
Please note that this mock draft does not account for any potential trades. There are always trades at the draft, so this mock almost certainly won’t reflect the final results. Without further ado, let’s kick things off with what could be the only pick I get right.

1. San Jose Sharks – Macklin Celebrini (C, Boston University, NCAA, 6-foot-0, 196 pounds)

No analysis needed here, especially since Sharks general manager Mike Grier pretty much admitted that his team would be selecting Celebrini with the first overall pick.
Make no mistake, the Sharks are getting a blue-chip forward prospect who they’re hopeful will propel their rebuild. They already added Will Smith, a forward with easy top-six potential at fourth overall in 2023, and Celebrini will give them a phenomenal one-two punch up the middle if both players stay there upon making the NHL. He’s dynamic on both sides of the puck and his 32 goals and 64 points in 38 NCAA games are similar to those of star Vegas forward Jack Eichel in his draft year, only Celebrini will likely be better.

2. Chicago Blackhawks – Artyom Levshunov (D, University of Michigan, NCAA, 6-foot-2, 209 pounds)

After half a decade of the Chicago Blackhawks running the table with the duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane up front and the duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook out back, the three-time Cup champions from the 2010s are looking to return to that era. They’ve got a future franchise centre up front with Connor Bedard, and while the thought of adding another dynamic duo to Bedard’s wing in Ivan Demidov will raise some temptations, I can’t see the Blackhawks passing on the opportunity to add a true blue-chip defenceman to their back end.
Although he’s spent the last two years playing hockey in the United States, Levshunov hails from Zhlobin, Belarus, and will be the highest-drafted Belarusian since the Anaheim Ducks selected Ruslan Salei ninth overall in the 1996 NHL Draft. He’s explosive offensively, physical in his own end, and his defensive game took some major strides in his freshman year with Michigan. Whether he’s going to return to Michigan for one more year or jump right into the NHL is up in the air right now, but he’s got all the makings of a future top-pair defenceman and would be an excellent addition to a young Blackhawks back end.

3. Anaheim Ducks – Anton Silayev (D, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, KHL, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds)

If there’s one thing we know about NHL general managers, it’s that they love a tall defenceman. Silyalev is more than just a tall defenceman, though. He’s a fascinating prospect in the sense that his offensive game wouldn’t typically have him pegged as a top-three pick, but his skating is so good for his size and his defensive game has already been established playing against grown men. He had 11 points in 63 KHL games this year and probably won’t be skating for an NHL team for a couple of years, but he could easily be worth the wait down the line.
The Ducks have arguably the strongest crop of young players in the league, to the point where they’re comfortable dangling Trevor Zegras in trade talks up front. They’ve already got some studs up front in Mason McTavish, Leo Carlsson, and Cutter Gauthier and some potential studs on the back end in Pavel Mintyukov and Olen Zellweger, so they’re in a position where they can afford to take a chance on someone like Silayev, who has excellent potential despite being ranked between third and as low as 19th overall on some draft boards.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets – Ivan Demidov (RW, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, MHL, 6-foot-0, 192 pounds)

Demidov is this year’s Matvei Michkov without the polarization. Michkov would have undoubtedly been the second overall pick after Connor Bedard if not for questions about his commitment to his Russian team along with the state of global politics involving Russia, but wound up slipping to seventh overall where the Philadelphia Flyers happily scooped him up. If it wasn’t for the Blackhawks and Ducks both having an abundance of star power up front, I don’t think he’d fall out of the top three, but in this case, the pieces fell into place to set the Blue Jackets up with a cornerstone scoring winger.
If not for the selections of David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk in the same year, I might have the Blue Jackets pursuing one of the many top-10 worthy defencemen in this year’s class, but I think the opportunity to select Demidov will be too much to pass up on for them. He produced at a clip of two points per game in the MHL this season, Russia’s junior league, and according to a piece from Sportsnet, plans to play one more year in Russia before coming to North America, which should remove some hesitation from drafting a Russian player under contract with a team in his homeland.

5. Montreal Canadiens – Cayden Lindstrom (C, Medicine Hat Tigers, WHL, 6-foot-3, 214 pounds)

Lindstrom is going to come with concerns about his health, but he’s worth the gamble – especially for a team like Montreal who will be looking to wrap up their rebuild era sooner rather than later and enter the annual dogfight that is the Atlantic Division. The last name would suggest a Swedish flag next to his name, but he hails from Chetwynd, British Columbia, and has spent the entirety of his hockey career to date in Western Canada. He only played 32 games this season due to a herniated disk in his back but displayed an excellent combination of goal-scoring, speed, and size while he was healthy, potting 27 goals and 46 points in 32 games for the Tigers.
If Lindstrom develops the way he’s advertised to, the Canadiens will have a nasty one-two punch of him and Nick Suzuki up the middle, with Juraj Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield handling business on the wing. It certainly won’t bode well for the Leafs down the road, but it will add some spice to the Leafs/Canadiens rivalry that’s been tamer than usual for the past decade or two.

6. Utah Hockey Club – Sam Dickinson (D, London Knights, OHL, 6-foot-3, 203 pounds)

One of the prospects headlining the 2024 draft class is going to make history as the first-ever player drafted by the brand-new but currently nameless Utah Hockey Club, even though they’re still a shell of the Arizona Coyotes at this point. Like the Canadiens, I’d imagine the Coyotes are getting sick of drafting in the Top 15 every year, and with a number of young talent up front including the likes of Dylan Guenther, Logan Cooley, and Josh Doan, I’ve got them going for one of the many intriguing young defencemen available in Sam Dickinson.
The London Knights are known for churning out some exceptional talent, with one of the best development programs among junior teams in Canada, and Dickinson looks like somebody who will be skating on a top pair someday. He finished the season with 70 points in 68 games along with 13 points in 18 playoff games for the Knights, who fell just short of a Memorial Cup Championship at the hands of the Saginaw Spirit. The Toronto native could probably start the season in the NHL next year, but one more go with the Knights for a 2025-26 NHL debut seems more likely.

7. Ottawa Senators – Zayne Parekh (D, Saginaw Spirit, OHL, 6-foot-0, 181 pounds)

Like the Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators are getting to the point where they’re sick of high draft picks and looking to start competing soon instead of winning their fourth straight offseason Cup, but they need to shore up their back end and goaltending situation before they get there. They’ve already made some waves in the department of the latter by swinging a deal for Linus Ullmark, and they’d be adding a big-time piece to their future defensive corps if they land Parekh.
The right-handed defenceman put up video game numbers offensively, scoring 33 goals and tallying 97 points in 66 games for the Memorial Cup-winning Spirit this year. His defensive game is still a work in progress, but with the Senators already having a strong future two-way talent in Jake Sanderson, they could get away with adding a guy like Parekh who will be a power play quarterback in this league for years to come.

8. Seattle Kraken – Berkly Catton (C, Spokane Chiefs, WHL, 5-foot-11, 174 pounds)

The Kraken overachieved a little bit in the second year of their existence, pulling off an unthinkable first-round win over the defending Cup champions and making it to the second round before falling to the Dallas Stars in seven games. They came back to earth this past season and missed the playoffs by 17 points, but the bright side here is that it put them in a position to select a talent like Berkly Catton to add to their repertoire.
What he lacks in size he makes up for with high IQ and exceptional offensive instincts. The Saskatoon native had 54 goals and 116 points in 68 games, totals that would earn you top-5 or even top-3 looks in certain draft classes, but the amount of high-end talent in the 2024 draft is prevalent enough for guys like Catton to slip. They’re certainly more loaded with forward talent than defensive talent, but if none of the aforementioned defencemen are available at eighth overall, Catton would make it easy for the Kraken to forget about their positional needs.

9. Calgary Flames – Tij Iginla (LW, Kelowna Rockets, WHL, 6-foot-0, 192 pounds)

I mean, it has to happen, right?
I’d be lying if I said that the name recognition factor is the biggest one that goes into this projection, but unless a team above Calgary is hellbent on selecting him, the addition of Jarome Iginla’s offspring to the team that his father spent 16 years cementing his legacy with would be a good fit both on and off the ice. Like his father, he’s a competitive winger with a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net and using his body to win puck battles. He loves being the first one to the puck and displayed all of these talents and more at the U18 World Hockey Championships, recording six goals and six assists in seven games for Team Canada.
Tij isn’t the only junior Iginla making waves. His 15-year-old brother Joe is just getting his feet wet in the WHL, playing his first five games with the Edmonton Oil Kings and recording five points in those games. We could see not one, but two Iginlas in the NHL at some point down the road, and from both an on-ice and marketing standpoint, the fit here makes too much sense.

10. New Jersey Devils – Cole Eiserman (LW, USNTDP, USHL, 6-foot-0, 196 pounds)

Cole Eiserman loves to score goals, and he’ll be the first one to tell you that. Just look at his absurd totals from this year. In 81 combined USHL games this year, he scored a whopping 83 goals in comparison to only 40 assists. For some, that might raise some questions about his selfishness, but to me, it shows that he has a talent that he knows how to use, which I’d take over trying to force passes that aren’t there.
The Devils are building an excellent young defensive corps led by Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, and since the selection of Alexander Holtz back in 2020 hasn’t exactly gone smoothly, a proper trigger man for Jack Hughes could be just what the doctor ordered for another young team looking to take a step forward. If Eiserman is available at #10 for New Jersey, they should take him and run.
Stay tuned for the second part of this mock draft series, where we’ll preview picks 11-21 tomorrow.

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