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The 2024 NHL Entry Draft is almost upon us which means it’s time for our annual mock draft.  As is tradition, we’ve picked the entire first round.  In addition, we’ve also picked Montreal’s next three selections after the top round.

Joining me to pick the draft this past Sunday (June 23rd) were HW writers Norm Szcyrek and Kevin Leveille.  Montreal’s selections were made on a consensus basis while picks for the rest of the first round were made on an alternating basis; the writer for each pick is noted in the write-up.

#1 – San Jose Sharks – Macklin Celebrini, C, Boston University (NCAA)

(Kevin) Not much of a debate here. Celebrini is the unanimous selection with the top pick, and San Jose GM Mike Grier tipped his hand at a recent media availability. The talented centre put up excellent numbers with 64 points in 38 games at Boston College this season. The only question is whether he returns to college or immediately joins San Jose.

#2 – Chicago Blackhawks – Artyom Levshunov, LD, Michigan State (NCAA)

(Norm) There has been much talk about Chicago’s interest in Levshunov, a good-sized Belarussian who was outstanding in his freshman college season.  The reports are Blackhawks scouts and management have regularly taken the five-hour drive to Michigan State to watch Artyom play.  There is much to like about Levshunov in this draft, deep with defence prospects. Chicago needs a lot of help on the back end, especially someone who can play a modern transition game, which Levshunov is more than capable of providing with his strong skating and great offensive abilities.

#3 – Anaheim Ducks – Anton Silayev, LD, Torpedo (KHL)

(Brian) From a straight talent standpoint, Silayev isn’t the third-most talented player in this draft class.  But defenders like him are hard to come by.  Standing 6’7 with an edge to his game, he’s likely to endear himself to an Anaheim management that has put a greater emphasis on physicality.  He’s also the perfect complementary piece to their current group of blueline prospects.  Many players with his profile get plenty of hype but don’t make it; Silayev should be one of the exceptions which will get him off the board early.

#4 – Columbus Blue Jackets – Ivan Demidov, RW, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

(Kevin) Demidov is ranked second in the HabsWorld Final Rankings, but many Habs fans are hoping he slips to fifth overall. In my opinion, that possibility went out the window when Don Waddell was named GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Yes, Demidov is a slightly undersized winger, but many believe he is the most exciting prospect of this whole draft. For a team like Columbus who has been starving for talent, and a new GM who isn’t afraid to draft it regardless of the players’ origin dating back to his time in Carolina, it seems like the Jackets are thankful for the Blackhawks opting for the defender and running to the stage to select Demidov.

#5 – Montreal Canadiens – Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat (WHL)

If the draft follows the first four picks of our mock, then that perfect storm will allow Montreal to land a big offensive centre that this franchise has not had in several decades.  Lindstrom is a power forward with good skating and a great shot. Before he suffered a fractured hand in December, he scored 27 goals in 32 games!  Cayden has some jam to his game, and his aggressive nature often causes opponents to take penalties.  Before he could return from his hand injury, he suffered a back injury which caused him to miss the rest of the regular season.  His medical reports were shared at the NHL Combine and the back injury was described as a herniated disc.  In a post-season interview with Lindstrom, he described the symptom as an aggravated sciatica nerve, with some light numbness in his hand and foot.  If Montreal’s medical and training staff give their approval for taking on that risk with Lindstrom as an NHL player, then you can expect the Canadiens to make him their top pick in this draft.

#6 – Utah Hockey Club – Zeev Buium, LD, Denver (NCAA)

(Norm) Buium had one of the best freshman college seasons in over 40 years in terms of points.  He also led his college team to an NCAA championship this spring, while also leading his American Under-20 team to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship this winter.  Utah has been slowly gathering and promoting their prospects to the pro levels while the team was in Arizona.  As a left-shooting defenceman, Zeev could quickly become Utah’s top defender.  Buium has great four-way mobility on the ice, and has one of the highest hockey IQ’s in this draft among forwards and defencemen.  His defensive game improved during his college season.  It’s possible that he could decide to turn pro after he attends Utah’s development camp this summer.

#7 – Ottawa Senators – Beckett Sennecke, RW, Oshawa (OHL)

(Brian) Sennecke is one of this year’s biggest late risers, going from a projected pick in the late teens or early 20s to some rankings having him in their top five.  He had a strong second half with the Generals and found another gear in the postseason.  His two-way game has come a long way which has helped him get to another level offensively.  He’s still finding his way after a growth spurt that has seen him grow five inches in the last couple of years, making him one of the potential higher-ceiling players in the draft which should get Ottawa’s attention with this pick.

#8 – Seattle Kraken – Sam Dickinson, LD, London Knights (OHL)

(Kevin) Ron Francis has been fairly conservative in his approach with the Kraken to-date. There are many rumblings that he’s been asked to swing a little more to get Seattle to compete quicker. In this case, he gets to have his cake and eat it too. Dickinson is ranked fourth in the HabsWorld Final Ranking, and it comes as a bit of a surprise that he made it through Utah and Ottawa. In Dickinson, Seattle gets the defender with the highest floor of the entire draft, but still one that projects quite nicely with his ceiling. Dickinson is a strong two-way defender who is likely NHL-ready with a high hockey IQ both with and away from the puck.

#9 – Calgary Flames – Tij Iginla, LW, Kelowna (WHL)

(Norm) The old saying, “the apple did not fall far from the tree” certainly applies to Tij, whose famous father Jarome was a Hall of Fame player in the NHL for many seasons.  Like his dad, Tij has an eye for the net, with an aggressive style, and is one of the better goal scorers in this draft.  Iginla was shifted to the wing this season, but will likely move back to centre next season.  That type of versatility is very valuable for any NHL team.  The Flames have been sputtering the last few seasons, and like the Canadiens two years ago, changed their GM and started their rebuild. Selecting a player like Tij would generate a huge amount of goodwill among Calgary fans.

#10 – New Jersey Devils – Berkly Catton, C, Spokane (WHL)

(Brian) When you’re one of only four CHL players who have had 50+ goals and 110+ points in their draft year since 2000, that gets people’s attention, especially when the other players are Connor Bedard, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane.  Pretty good company to be in.  Why he falls this low is his size (5’10) which is on the low side for a middleman.  The good news for New Jersey is that they don’t necessarily need him to play down the middle right away with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier in the fold.  They can be patient and ease him in on the wing where his all-around offensive game could help him be a difference-maker sooner than later.

#11 – San Jose Sharks – Cole Eiserman, LW, USNTDP (USHL)

(Kevin) Every year, there’s a player who falls outside the top ten that should be ranked much higher that falls into a team’s lap. Eiserman, who was a consensus #2 pick for most of the year, is likely to be that player this time.  The kid decided to focus on his 200-foot game in the second half of the season and I guess the scouts didn’t like the plan. The production is still there as he scored 25 goals in 24 games in the USHL, but concerns remain about the roundedness of his game.

Editor’s Note: This pick was originally made when the selection belonged to Buffalo prior to the pick swap trade with San Jose.

#12 – Philadelphia Flyers – Carter Yakemchuk, RD, Calgary (WHL)

(Norm) Yakemchuk will quickly become a fan favourite when he arrives in Philadelphia.  The gritty blueliner loves to play an aggressive game, and sometimes takes too many penalties.  But his booming shot helped him score thirty goals this season, the first draft-eligible defenceman to do so in over 32 years.  Oh, he’s also 6’3, over 200 pounds but is a really good skater who loves to carry the puck to drive the play. His defence still needs some work, but in one or two more seasons, he should be ready to move up to the pros.

#13 – Minnesota Wild – Konsta Helenius, C, Jukurit (Liiga)

(Brian) Draft-eligible players often don’t play big roles in Finland’s top level but that wasn’t the case for Helenius as he played a key two-way role this season, helping him earn chances at the World Juniors and World Championship.  One of the questions around him is regarding how much true offensive upside there is.  Even so, the floor is quite high, sticking him as a middle-six piece at a minimum.  Minnesota definitely needs to add some quality pieces to their centre options so this is one of those perfect-fit outcomes.

#14 – Buffalo Sabres – Zayne Parekh, RD, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

(Kevin) The scouts are all over the place, and frankly, so am I. He ranked 10th in the HabsWorld Final Ranking, but there is potential for him to go as high as third to Anaheim. The question is how much his defensive game will be able to develop, resulting in questions as to whether he can be a top-pairing player or one who is more likely to be on the third pairing at even strength.  He goes 14th in this mock draft, adding an offensive dynamo to Buffalo’s back end.

Editor’s Note: This pick was originally made when the selection belonged to San Jose prior to the pick swap trade with Buffalo.

#15 – Detroit Red Wings – Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, RW, Allsvenskan (SWE-2)

(Norm) This Norweigan-born forward turned many heads with the strides he made playing hockey in Sweden.  Brandsegg-Nygard has a pro-sized frame already and has a heavy shot while playing a solid two-way game. He loves to play a physical game, which is a trait that should help him adapt quickly to the NHL at a lower lineup slot to start.  Although he has good speed, he still needs to work a little on his agility and acceleration to better adapt to the pro game.  He will benefit from at least another year, perhaps two, before crossing the pond to join the Red Wings organization. As you may expect, he fared very well in the strength tests at the NHL Combine in early June.

#16 – St. Louis Blues – Stian Solberg, LD, Valerenga (Ligaen)

(Brian) Solberg’s stock has been on the rise in recent rankings thanks to a quality performance for Norway at the recent Worlds.  Considering he wasn’t playing at a high level (Norway’s top division isn’t exactly among the best leagues out there), there might have been some hesitance that went away with his tournament performance.  Solberg isn’t highly skilled offensively but plays a more traditional shutdown, physical role that top teams often have on their roster.  That should land him somewhere around the mid-point of the first round which just happens to be the pick St. Louis holds.

#17 – Washington Capitals – Igor Chernyshov, LW, MHK Dynamo Moskva (MHL)

(Kevin) Chernyshov is a big boy who’s already playing in the KHL. He was more productive in the lower league, but his play style is likely more suited to the NHL than the KHL. He loves to get to the greasy areas on the ice to produce. He’s the type of player teams need to find success in the postseason. The Capitals haven’t thrown in the towel on their current group as evidenced by the trades for Pierre-Luc Dubois and Andrew Mangiapane, so adding a player that might have a lower ceiling but provide an impact a bit sooner holds some logic here.

#18 – Chicago Blackhawks – Michael Hage, C, Chicago (USHL)

(Norm) The Blackhawks staff did not have to travel far to watch Hage play live games this season, since he was already in Chicago.  Michael is a great puck-handler who can drive the player from any zone on the ice.  His passing is excellent, and he led his team in scoring this season while getting better as the season progressed.  Michael had shoulder surgery in 2022-23, which caused him to miss most of that season, and was the likely reason for his relatively slow start this year.  With a great work ethic, Hage could become the second-line centre for Chicago behind Connor Bedard.

#19 – Vegas Golden Knights – Trevor Connelly, LW, Tri-City (USHL)

(Brian) It’s fair to say that Connelly is one of the more polarizing players in this draft class.  Talent-wise, he’s a clear first-round pick.  But several teams at least are believed to have him on their do-not-draft list.  Vegas is a team that likes to swing big and this would be one of those picks.  Being in a veteran-laden environment would probably be a good fit for Connelly whose penchant for ill-timed trouble has come back to hurt him.  But he has legitimate top-six upside so even with some teams having their doubts, he should come off the board in this range.

#20 – New York Islanders – Adam Jiricek, RD, HC Plzen (Czechia)

(Kevin) The Islanders see a defender who was ranked amongst the best in this draft to start the season slide down as he’s missed too much time this season with injury. The potential is still there and it fits what they need, so it’s somewhat of an easy selection for them here.

#21 – Los Angeles Kings – Cole Beaudoin, C, Barrie (OHL)

(Norm) Beaudoin is the type of player built for the playoffs. He’s a strong kid, with a fantastic work ethic who should rise to a middle-six forward for the Kings.  His fitness levels were very high at the NHL Combine, and with a 6’2 frame and over 210 pounds on it, he’s already at a pro level of physical development.  His skating is a work in progress, but his hockey sense helps him better react to plays than faster opponents can do.  Cole is a coach’s dream as a player since he plays in all situations for his OHL team now. Beaudoin should take the next two seasons to round out his weaknesses, but should at least be ready for a fourth-line role to start his NHL career in 2026.

#22 – Nashville Predators – E.J. Emery, RD, USNTDP (USHL)

(Brian) While Barry Trotz has come in and shook things up in Nashville fairly quickly, he’s still an old-school thinker and I think someone like Emery is really going to appeal to them.  We’re at the point of the draft where players could wind up in this range or slip entirely to the second round and Emery is one of those wild cards.  Offensively, he doesn’t bring much to the table but the potential is there for him to become a physical shutdown defender.  The Predators used to be a defence factory but their depth at that position has lessened lately so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a blueliner here.

#23 – Toronto Maple Leafs – Aron Kiviharju, LD, HIFK (Liiga)

(Kevin) Slightly frustrated that they couldn’t get their hands on Emery, the Maple Leafs turn to a smaller option, but one that does have a higher ceiling in Kiviharju. Kiviharju was ranked 9th to start the season but falls this low after an injury-plagued season. He’s a dynamic passer that skates like the wind and he could take some pressure off Reilly as the main producer on the Toronto blue line. Treliving has had the right idea at the bottom of the Leafs defensive group by adding size and grit which could allow him to take the home run swing of Kiviharju at the top of that blue line.

#24 – Colorado Avalanche – Liam Greentree, RW, Windsor (OHL)

(Norm) Greentree played on a terrible junior team this season but took advantage of the situation of being the best of the worst. His extra ice time gave him the chance to produce, and he led his team with 90 points.  Liam is a big kid, man-sized at just over 6’2 and 207 pounds, but he plays more of a skill game than a physical one.  He stickhandles very well for a big guy, loves to shoot the puck with high accuracy, and has a high hockey IQ.  His skating speed is fine for his size, but could use some improvement with his edge work and acceleration.  He does use his size to his advantage, but could be a bit tougher to optimize that tool.  His defensive work needs more work, but a team like the Avalanche could utilize his talent in a couple of seasons.

#25 – Boston Bruins – Jett Luchanko, C, Guelph (OHL)

(Brian) Luchanko has a safe floor as a bottom-six forward as he has a sound defensive game and plays with energy.  The question is whether his offensive game can get him higher in the lineup.  When Matthew Poitras stayed in Boston this season, Luchanko was the beneficiary, becoming a focal point of their attack in the process.  He’s one of the youngest players in this draft class so there could be a bit more projectability which should land him in the first round.

Editor’s Note: This pick was originally made when the selection belonged to Ottawa prior to the Linus Ullmark trade.

#26 – Montreal Canadiens – Dean Letourneau, C, St. Andrew’s (PHC)

It’s rare that a player playing Canadian high school hockey gets first-round consideration.  But as a 6’6.5 middleman with some intriguing skills, he could be the exception.  Letourneau is very much a long-term prospect, even with an NHL-sized frame already.  He’ll need several years at college to adapt to playing at a higher level and eventually work his way up the depth chart there.  With that in mind, it feels like a team with a deep prospect pool might be more inclined to take him.  Montreal definitely has a deep prospect pool, making this a potential fit.  It’s a high-risk/reward selection as there is very much a scenario where he doesn’t make it but if Letourneau can reach his ceiling, he could be the steal of the draft.

#27 – Carolina Hurricanes – Andrew Basha, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

(Kevin) If Carolina called Martin Necas a budding star as they prepare to move the winger, then it stands to reason that they take the biggest possible swing to replace him immediately. In enters Basha whose main strength is his speed which should fit in quite nicely with the Hurricanes’ style of play. There are question marks here, but for a team looking to win now and looking to replace a top-end player, Basha was the swing to take.

28 – Calgary Flames – Dominik Badinka, RD, Malmo (SWE)

(Norm) After taking a forward with their first pick, it makes sense that Calgary would pivot to a defenceman. In Badinka they have a lean, 6’3 right-shooting blueliner with great mobility, that enjoys moving the puck to lead the rush.  He’s also a strong defensive player, with high hockey sense.  On offence, he’s a great passer with a strong shot.  His acceleration could be improved, but that will improve when he gains more muscle.  Dominik’s contract with Malmo runs through the end of the 2025-26 season, which should be good timing if he uses that development time well to be ready for the NHL.

#29 – Dallas Stars – Sasha Boisvert, C, Muskegon (USHL)

(Brian) Boisvert has shown a wide array of offensive skills at the USHL level but one of the reasons he slips this far is that there are some questions about how well they will translate to playing at higher levels.  He does, however, play with an edge, making him a viable candidate to play in the bottom six if the offence doesn’t come along.  He doesn’t have the highest ceiling of prospects still on the board but he’s a pretty safe bet to make the NHL in some respect which should get him a late first-round look.

#30 – New York Rangers – Cole Hutson, LD, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

(Kevin) With Fox already in the mix, my initial thoughts didn’t really have Hutson as a fit in New York. Reading up on what the Rangers want to do with this pick, it became evident that they want to select a talented defender to take some pressure off Fox and Hutson was named in more than one article. When he remained available here, it was an easy selection for Drury and the Rangers.

31 – Anaheim Ducks – Ryder Ritchie, RW, Prince Albert (WHL)

(Norm) Ryder took a sideways step in his development this season, producing at almost the same rate as the season previous.  He did suffer a lower-body injury near the midseason point, which caused him to miss over 20 games. That loss of time may explain the lack of production.  Ritchie has a great tool kit, scoring high marks in puck handling, shooting, passing, and hockey sense.  His skating and physical play are above average, but could use more focused training to better develop them.  He did raise many eyebrows with high fine play at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, and the U18 tournament, being one of the top scorers on both teams.  Ryder will need a full run through his junior career to continue to fully develop before launching into the pro ranks.

#32 – Philadelphia Flyers – Sam O’Reilly, RW, London (OHL)

(Brian) Last year, it was Easton Cowan who made a late push up draft boards, going from a second-round thought to being picked in the first round.  His teammate O’Reilly feels like a candidate to follow suit this season.  The numbers don’t pop being on a deep roster but he’s an all-situations player who should have a chance to play a bigger role next year and see his stock rise.  For a pick at the end of the first round, that’s not a bad outcome for the Flyers.

#57 – Montreal Canadiens – Adam Jecho, RW, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Jecho is without a doubt a project. At 6’5, he uses his wingspan to gain an advantage at the junior level. He projects as a middle-six winger that plays a very north-south style of game, so likely needs to develop as more of a power forward. This was his first season in North America where he scored 47 points in 57 games after scoring 47 points in 37 games in the Finnish junior league a year ago. It’s very raw talent, but he definitely has some untapped potential that could land in the Joel Armia range for the Habs here.

#70 – Montreal Canadiens – Eriks Mateiko, W, Saint John (QMJHL)

Trust us, we didn’t come into this with our version of BPA representing Biggest Player Available, it just sort of happened this way.  Mateiko doesn’t have a high-end offensive game but is good enough defensively to hang in the bottom six which is where he profiles in the NHL.  He’s particularly good at board battles, a complementary skill that not a lot of Montreal’s forwards have.  This might be a bit of a redundancy with Jecho going in the second round but as we saw last year with the goalies, they’re not against drafting several players with similar profiles.

78 – Montreal Canadiens – Aatos Koivu, C – TPS (Finland)

On the surface, there is an obvious nostalgic component to drafting the son of Saku Koivu. Aatos is a very good shooter, but his playmaking skills are not very evident. His defensive game is very good, and much like his father, his work ethic is elite.  His hockey sense is also very good. It may be too early to predict his pro expectations with a high degree of confidence.  However, I will go out on a limb and state Aatos could become a solid bottom-six forward, after three to four more seasons of development.