The first pick of the future NHL draft has already been named in the United States

By | May 11, 2024

The NHL Draft Lottery, a crucial event shaping the future of North American hockey clubs for years, took place in the USA. This lottery determined the order in which teams will select the first 16 players in the first round of the upcoming NHL Draft. The lottery involved 16 teams that did not make it to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The lottery rules have often changed: initially, only the last five teams could contend for the overall first pick, with the worst regular season team having a 30 percent chance. Over the years, the rules have changed: the advantage for the last team was cut to 25%, and now it’s only 18.5%. On a few occasions under this system, the lottery was won by a team that did not get the first overall pick: the New Jersey Devils in 2011 had only an eighth-percent chance but could only move up a maximum of four places to the fourth position due to the old system. This year, there were no surprises – the draft lottery was won by the San Jose Sharks, who had put maximum effort into securing this outcome by finishing last in the regular season. The 2024 Draft Lottery turned out surprisingly dull, and it seems it might be time for NHL executives to reconsider the rules for percentage allocation to prevent deliberate season tanking. For the first time since 2010, teams were placed in an order that fully matched their regular season finish. That is, the team with the highest chance of getting the first place remained first, the team with the highest chance for the second place stayed second, and so on down the list.

As a result, San Jose earned the right to the first pick for the first time in their history. Previously, the Californians, who debuted in the league in the 1991/1992 season, had never picked first. They picked second three times (Pat Falloon was chosen in 1991, Andrei Zyuzin in 1996, and Patrick Marleau in 1997). In the 21st century, the club’s highest pick was fourth last year (Will Smith). The previous year’s draft lottery winner, the Chicago Blackhawks, took second place, and the Anaheim Ducks completed the top three. The main favorite of the NHL Draft 2024 is 17-year-old Canadian forward Maclean Celebrini. This season, he scored 64 points (32 goals and 32 assists) in 38 games for Boston University in the NCAA and was named the most valuable player in US college hockey. In January, Maclean participated in the World Junior Championship, which turned out disastrously for the Canadian team. The “Maple Leafs” were eliminated in the quarterfinals, and their most hyped prospect finished the tournament with 8 points (4 goals and 4 assists) in five games.

A few months later, Celebrini faced another setback. He declined to play for the Canadian junior team in favor of the chance to play at the adult World Championship. Celebrini was on the expanded roster of the “Maple Leafs” and had even traveled to Europe with the national team, but a few days before the start of the global forum, Maclean was dropped from the roster along with 19-year-old Adam Fantilli. The coaching staff of Team Canada opted for experience and trusted the forwards from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel, who had been eliminated from the playoffs. Now, the dream of the 17-year-old Celebrini to play for the adult Canadian team will likely come true only next year. Meanwhile, Maclean can methodically prepare for donning the Sharks’ jersey at the NHL Draft ceremony. The 62nd NHL Draft will take place from June 28 to 29, 2024, in Paradise. There is still a month and a half until the ceremonial event, but the American club sees no reason to hesitate.

Immediately after their lottery win, Sharks’ general manager Mike Grier confirmed that the club will select the Canadian forward first overall: “This is an important moment for the organization and fans—to have the opportunity to draft someone like Maclean. I think he can play in the National Hockey League right after the talent fair.”

More intriguing developments are expected. According to numerous expert assessments and various scouting ratings, there’s a 95% chance that Russian talent Ivan Demidov will go second to Chicago. The SKA system forward firmly holds the second place in all scouting reports, receiving very positive press. “Demidov unflappably tore through the MHL. Not only in the regular season but also in the playoffs. His results have already become the gold standard for earning the right to be drafted into the league, and the season isn’t even over,” stated an article from Sportsnet, which was published during the MHL finals. Since then, the season in the Junior Hockey League has ended—SKA-1946 won the Harlamov Cup, and Demidov was named the most valuable player of the playoffs. The forward received the league’s main individual award for the second consecutive year. Last season, Demidov played 30 regular-season games, scoring 60 points (23 goals and 37 assists). In the playoffs, the 18-year-old forward played 17 games and scored 28 points (11 goals and 17 assists).

Demidov’s current contract with SKA is for one more season, but according to some reports, he hopes to leave the army system early, opting to continue his career overseas. There he will almost certainly soon become a teammate of last year’s first overall NHL Draft pick, Connor Bedard.

The last time two Russians went in the top-3 of the NHL Draft was 20 years ago. In 2004, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin occupied the top two slots, setting the stage for a key Russian rivalry overseas for the next two decades. Now, in a somewhat simplified form, Demidov and Anton Silyaev from Torpedo could repeat their success. For a long time in the first half of the hockey season, the Torpedo defenseman was projected as the third pick, but in the last couple of months, Anton’s position has slightly weakened. Now he is expected to be around the fifth or sixth position, but even so, this would be the most successful draft for Russia in the last 20 years in terms of the density of top positions occupied. In 2018, Andrei Svechnikov was chosen second, Vitali Kravtsov ninth. Last year, Dmitry Simashev went sixth, Matvei Michkov seventh. There have been two Russians in the top-6 only once since that 2004 draft. The third pick, likely heading to Anaheim, is expected to be defenseman Artem Levshunov, and this would be the best result in the history of Belarusian hockey by two metrics. Artem would become the first Belarusian chosen in the top-3, and also the highest-drafted defenseman. The 18-year-old Levshunov will surpass the mark set by Ruslan Salei. Interestingly, 28 years ago, Ruslan was drafted ninth overall by Anaheim. In this case, the circle of history will close. It is sad to realize that Salei himself will not see this symbolic moment for Belarusian hockey.

As for Silyaev, Columbus Blue Jackets selects fourth, Montreal Canadiens fifth, and Utah, relocated from Arizona, sixth. Thus, Anton has every chance to make NHL history as the first player chosen by Utah in the North American league’s draft. Moreover, last year Arizona was so keen on drafting Russians in the first round of the NHL Draft, and there has been no information about a change in management of the Coyotes after moving to Utah. There is every reason to believe that the same people will make the selection at the upcoming draft.

Another Russian hockey player, forward Igor Chernyshov of Moscow Dynamo, should also be drafted in the first round. The 18-year-old forward of the white-and-blue is expected to be chosen at the end of the second to the beginning of the third dozen, and the picks 17–32 will be determined by the results of the current Stanley Cup playoffs, so it is impossible to predict the club that will bet on Igor for now.

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