Blackhawks take defenseman Levshunov in NHL draft; Sharks select former Chicago Steel center Celebrini at No. 1

LAS VEGAS — The San Jose Sharks added a foundational piece to their rebuilding plan by choosing Boston University center Macklin Celebrini with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday.

Celebrini's selection came as no surprise after the 18-year-old became just the fourth freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player. He did so as the nation's youngest player, too, finishing second with 34 goals and third with 64 points in 38 games.

The 6-foot, 200-pound player from North Vancouver, British Columbia, already has ties to the Bay Area. Celebrini played for the Junior Sharks program after his father, Rick, was hired to be the Golden State Warriors' sports medicine director. He also played for Geneva-based Chicago Steel in the USHL.

Celebrini was undecided on whether he will return to BU for a second year, but he deepens a talented prospect pool on a Sharks team in the midst of its longest playoff drought, now spanning five years.

FILE — Western Michigan forward Wyatt Schingoethe (18) is pressured by Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov (5) during the second period of an NCAA college hockey game in Maryland Heights, Mo., March 29, 2024. Levshunov is expected to be selected No. 2 by the Chicago Blackhawks in the upcoming NHL draft. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley, File) AP

The Blackhawks took Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov of Belarus with the second pick.

At No. 18 in the first round, the Blackhawks selected center Sacha Boisvert of Muskegon in the USHL. Boisvert is committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2024-25 season.

Then the Blackhawks traded into the first round for another pick, their third of the night. They sent their two second-round picks, Nos. 34 and 50, to Carolina for No. 27 overall, where they selected forward Marek Vanacker.

The Blackhawks have four picks in the remainder of the draft, which resumes Saturday. They have two third-round picks, Nos. 67 and 72, a fifth-rounder (138) and a sixth-round pick (163).

Levshunov, 18, posted 35 points in 38 games with Michigan State University during the 2023-24 campaign, helping the Spartans to both Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships. His 26 assists and 35 points each ranked second on the club.

Among all NCAA blueliners, he shared ninth in points, which was second among all freshmen defensemen, and shared 10 th in goals and 12 th in assists. Levshunov also earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors. Additionally, he was named to the Big Ten First All-Star Team and the ACHA Second All-America Team.

Internationally, the Zhlobin, Belarus native helped his country to a gold medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship Division 1 tournament, posting two assists in five games. At second overall, he is the highest-selected Belarusian in NHL draft history.

Artyom Levshunov, center, puts on a jersey after being selected by the Chicago Blackhawks during the first round of the NHL hockey draft Friday, June 28, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus) AP

Boisvert, 18, posted 68 points in 61 regular-season games with the Lumberjacks last season. His 36 goals ranked fifth among all USHL skaters, while his 68 points shared 11th among all league skaters.

He also appeared in eight postseason games with the Lumberjacks in 2023-24, notching three assists. Additionally, Boisvert was named to the USHL's Third All-Star Team.

Vanacker, 18, notched career highs in games played (68), goals (36), assists (46) and points (82) with the Brantford Bulldogs (OHL) during the 2023-24 campaign. His 36 goals and 82 points led all team skaters, while his 46 assists ranked second among all Bulldogs skaters. Vanacker also posted seven points in six postseason games with Brantford in 2023-24.

His seven points shared second among all club skaters.

Celebrini's selection was announced by former Sharks star Joe Thornton — drafted No. 1 by Boston in 1997. Thornton opened by saying, “The San Jose Sharks are proud to select from Boston University,” before briefly pausing with a smile, and then said Celebrini's name and pointing to him in the stands.

The draft featured the added spectacle of being held at the year-old Sphere, a globe-shaped venue overlooking the Las Vegas Strip and featuring video screens on the inside and outside of its structure.

The 32 teams were gathered at tables beneath the wraparound screen covering almost three-quarters of the curved wall broadcasting scenes from the draft to the crowd overlooking the floor and seated the multi-deck facility. The draft opened with the screen featuring pictures of more than 100 of the eligible prospects.

Macklin Celebrini arrives for hockey's NHL Awards, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/L.E. Baskow) AP

A small stage was erected in the middle of the floor, where Commissioner Gary Bettman was joined by teams to announce the selections.

Celebrini failed to register a point in just six games at BU. His production accelerated over the second half of the season by combining for 22 goals and 39 points in his final 17 games in helping the Terriers reach the Frozen Four, which they lost in the semifinal to eventual champion Denver.

An NHL Central Scouting report referred to him as being “a strong skater with fluid stride, elusive speed and quickness. … The go-to for one-timers on the power play. Plays a heads-up complete game.”

Whenever Celebrini turns pro upon consulting with his family, the Sharks and BU, he'll join a Sharks' youth movement that includes their two first-round picks last year, forwards Will Smith and OHL forward Quentin Musty. Then there's the Swedish duo of Filip Bystedt, San Jose's 2022 first-round pick, who made his minor-league debut last season, and William Eklund, who has 18 goals and 52 points in 97 NHL games since being drafted seventh in '21.

“Having the first overall pick, it's a big moment for the organization, to have someone hopefully that can be a big part of our core and play here for a long, long time,” third-year GM Mike Grier said earlier this week.

“It's definitely doing a good job of laying (the foundation). I don't know if it's finishing the foundation,” he added. “It's definitely an important time, an important draft, but we still got some work to do to kind of round things out and keep building up the prospect pool.”

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