Celebrini highlights NHL draft
by Andrew PODNIEKS|30 JUN 2024
Canada's Macklin Celebrini #17 skates with the puck during Preliminary Round - Group A action against Finland at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship at Scandinavium on December 26, 2023 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
Norway, Latvia make history

The NHL Entry Draft kicked off with a bang at the Sphere in Las Vegas on Friday night when legendary Joe Thornton took the stage to call the first overall choice for his old team, San Jose Sharks.  As expected, Canadian Macklin Celebrini got the call. The 18-year-old from North Vancouver, British Columbia, scored the bronze-medal-winning goal against Slovakia at the 2023 Men’s U18 World Championship and played on Canada’s World Junior Championship team this past January.
But perhaps the biggest news of Friday’s first round was the drafting of Michael Brandsegg-Nygard and Stian Solberg. These two became the first Norwegians ever selected in the opening round, Brandsegg-Nygard going 15th and his compatriot 23rd. In all, there were four Norwegians drafted, the most ever. And although Latvia didn’t have a first-rounder, they also saw a record four players selected in the 2024 draft.
In all, Europeans were taken in 98 of 225 picks, or 43.6 per cent, the most since 2003. Leading the way was Russia with 27, followed by Sweden (22), Finland (18), Czechia (13, the most since 2005), Norway, Switzerland, and Latvia (4), Belarus (3), and one each for Austria, Germany, and Slovakia. Overall, Canada led the way with 88 choices (up from 86 a year ago), followed by the U.S. with 39 (down from 50 in 2023).
The first round announcements also featured two celebrities of very differing fame. For Montreal’s fifth overall pick, the one and only Celine Dion made the call, and for Philadelphia’s 13th selection, Michael Buffer, famous for his bass boxing match tagline, “Are you ready to rumble?” made the selection.
For the third year in a row the first round came and went without so much as one goalie selected.  Teams made up for it in round two, however, selecting five goalies, and over seven rounds a total of 24 ‘tenders were chosen.
That inaugural round on Friday was dominated by Canadians who filled 18 of the 32 selections. Next was the U.S. with four while, shockingly, not a single Swede was chosen in the first round. But over the course of 225 selections, many stories played out.
Going 6th overall to Utah was Tij Iginla. The first name might not ring a bell, but the last name certainly does. Jarome Iginla was one of the marquee players of his era, a player with a perpetual smile on his face and a nose for the net (625 career goals). His son now will try to follow in his footsteps. Tij had 12 points with Canada at the U18 just a couple of months ago, helping the team win gold.
Speaking of sons, there is no better story than Montral selecting Aatos Koivu 70th overall. The son of Saku, the first European captain of the Habs, Aatos could join his dad among the legends of the bleu, blanc, et rouge chandaille.
In between Tij and Aatos, Ryder Ritchie, son of Byron, went 45th to Minnesota. As well, St. Louis took Lukas Fischer, son of Jiri, 56th overall.
Kevin He was selected by Winnipeg 109th overall, just the second ever China-born player drafted. He was born in Beijing and played roller hockey at a young age before the family moved to Montreal, where he learned to skate.
Another name to watch for is very familiar to hockey fans. Washington selected Miroslav Satan 212th overall. The son of Miroslav, Sr., one of the most important players in the history of Slovak hockey, Miro, Jr. will be challenged to equal his dad’s amazing IIHF Hall of Fame career. Miro, Sr. was MVP when Slovakia won its historic gold at the 2002 Men’s World Championship, and he also won the Stanley Cup with Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh in 2009.
And with the 222nd selection, Dallas took William Samuelsson, son of Mikael Samuelsson, who is the IIHF’s 22nd member of the Triple Gold Club.
Lastly, the Toronto Maple Leafs had the distinction of making the final selection. Going 225th overall was defender Nathan Mayes of the Spokane Chiefs (WHL). Let’s see if he can add to draft lore by making the Show as the final pick.