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Grier on Why Celebrini Might Be Ready for NHL, Hope That He Brings Sharks

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Credit: Boston University/Rich Gagnon

SECAUCUS, N.J. — Mike Grier left little doubt who the San Jose Sharks are taking with the No. 1 pick of the 2024 Draft.

After the Draft Lottery, Grier was asked if he was selecting Macklin Celebrini, who’s been the front-runner for first-overall all season long.

“I would think so, yeah,” Grier said.

He then talked about meeting with Celebrini’s representatives over the next week, to “see where everybody’s heads at.”

Yeah, that sounds like a done deal.

Not so certain is whether Celebrini will start next season with the San Jose Sharks or return to Boston University.

But it sounds like Grier thinks that Celebrini is ready for the NHL.

There’s significant offensive promise. The 17-year-old won the Hobey Baker Award for best college player after scoring 32 goals and 32 assists in just 38 games.

“He obviously has the talent and the skating ability to play at this level,” Grier said.

More importantly for NHL hockey, Celebrini plays a mature game, well beyond his years. He’s got a fallback game if he isn’t scoring.

“He’s someone who plays 200 feet,” Grier said. “He doesn’t cheat either side of it. He works just as hard in the D-zone as he does in the offensive zone.”

Grier also complimented Celebrini’s 6-foot-1 and growing frame.

“He’s 17,” Grier said, “but he’s got a real solid build on him.”

Beyond that, he’s already a pro off the ice.

“He’s got a professional attitude and mentality to him,” Grier said. “I know that talking to [head coach] Jay Pandolfo at BU, they have to kick him off the ice sometimes. It’s how he plays the game, how he approaches the game.”

Three-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Toews has been the common comparison, but Grier had more: “People obviously say the Toews thing because he plays two ways, good kid, good leadership.”

He added: “I think he’s also got a little bit of a Bo Horvat in him, playing a 200-foot game and the way he can shoot the puck. I think he’s got a little bit of Patrice Bergeron in him too.”

Grier cautioned, “You don’t want to compare him too much to any one player.”

But this isn’t often said of a teenager: “I think he’s a complete player.”

Hopefully, Celebrini is all that he’s cracked up to be. It’ll make one of the worst seasons in San Jose Sharks history – and five years and counting out of the playoffs – worth it.

Grier knows what winning the No. 1 pick and selecting Celebrini means to the fanbase.

“It was a tough year for the fans and the team and the players and the organization. So this is almost like a nice prize for what we went through this year,” Grier said.

Grier also knows what the return of the former Jr. Shark, whose father Rick Celebrini works for the Golden State Warriors, could mean to the San Jose Sharks and Bay Area hockey.

“I think he’s looking forward to being a Shark and I think it probably means a little bit more to him than maybe playing somewhere else,” Grier said. “It’s giving these kids who are playing youth hockey, someone to look up to and say, I can possibly be that kid down the road, who was a Jr. Shark and made it to the NHL.

“It’s a big day for hockey in San Jose and hockey in California. It’s not easy to play hockey out here. This kind of shows if you’re driven and you put the time and the work in, that anything’s possible.”

Anything’s possible, like the Jr. Shark bringing the Stanley Cup to the San Jose Sharks one day?

After five years of darkness for Sharks fans – anything feels possible today.

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Bob D

This is where the real work starts for MG. No more excuses for a poor defense, lack of depth, and can we now get a real coach? No unknown college guy or assistant. This is now critical, we have the modern day Paul Kariya, and I don’t want MC to end up on the ice. Don’t screw this up MG

Bring Back Celebrini!

Oh, his defense and depth will still be terrible next year, but this is a foundational piece that’ll be surrounded by Eklund, Smith, Musty, etc.
Continue the rebuild, start collecting pieces for the back end and in ~3-5 years, let’s see where SJS are at!

Zeke

Exactly. Its called a rebuild for a reason. The Sharks now have a few foundational pieces in Eklund, Smith and Celebrini. There’s a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. Its off in the distance, but at least its there!! A few longer term useful pieces in Zetterlund and Sturm. Perhaps Kunin. Perhaps Muk. Maybe even Granlund. Viewed as a building, there are a lot of pieces which need filling in. It takes time. Both for Smith, Ekund and Celebrini to become NHL top-line players, but also to find the right complimentary parts, including the right coaches. The… Read more »

SJShorky

I’m going to put it out there now. Barring injuries, and Mack & Smith going back to college, sharks don’t finish in the bottom 10 next season. I don’t believe Grier wants them learning how to lose 50 games in a season.

Zeke

Its tough to come off the bottom with 18 and 19 year olds leading the way. Bedard is a Calder finalist and the Blackhawks actually finished last season with a worse record than the prior year. It isn’t hard to make a team playoff competitive in a league where 1/2 the teams make it in — and Grier has cap space to get talent. But in the Sharks case, I don’t think it’d be wise. Not yet. But we’ll see how this plays out. There have been lots of indicators that Hasso is impatient — with a longer term process… Read more »

SJShorky

Agreed on Hasso. I think he’s fine with a rebuild but doesn’t want to lose 50 games either. They have to at least appear to be competitive. That’s why I don’t see them finishing bottom 10. Hell, 3 years ago they finished 11th from the bottom and that team was terrible too, so it’s not that big a stretch. It won’t be the 18/19 year olds leading the way, it’ll be them supplementing what Grier adds in UFA and trades this off season. Team already has a potentially good goaltending tandem. Those 2 creative and talented kids along with 2… Read more »

Bob D

According to Sheng’s pal Jimmy Murphy there is “intense pressure” for Mac and Smith to return to college right now. And where is his sidekick Pierre “ain’t no help coming to San Jose” now? Maybe a better strategy is in order. Toll both of their contracts for another year, since there are no good free agents out there, and let’s start lining up for the Hagens derby right now? It’s not a bad strategy, but I don’t think the attendance numbers can take another year at the bottom, nor can MG. Can you imagine a future sharks with Hagans as… Read more »

Last edited 9 days ago by Bob D
SJShorky

There’s a star player every year. Can’t draft them all. Don’t need to draft in the top 5 endlessly to build a winner. 3 top 7 picks including a franchise level #1C, 5 more 1st rounders (Bystedt, Musty,#14, x2 in 2025) in 5 years is a hell of a good foundation. Also picking up 4 more young 1st rounders (Kostin, Zadina, Shak, Endstrom) to develop and you’re well on your way. That’s not even counting all the 2nds and guys drafted later who may hit. Just have to draft better than the DW regime did in the early rounds for… Read more »

Hassel

Not sure how to upvote but the two top comments made my day. this, exactly this. have some patience. Root for the guys, love especially from the fans is going to go a long way. long time sharks fan from Sweden. take care guys!

downriver

The last thing we want is some stalled rebuild that’s hanging around the bottom playoff spots each season but is rarely a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. Too many of those teams already.

SJShorky

Is that optimism I’m hearing in this article? It’s been so long I almost didn’t recognize it. Sheng must not have had his coffee yet. :D. The other comparable I read elsewhere is Doug Gilmour who was my first “favorite” player. Mack is a lot bigger but that’s another great player to be compared to.

Last edited 9 days ago by SJShorky
Nimrod

I’m getting excited for next season. Hoping Celebrini & Smith both come in and legitimize the top 6. Hoping GMMG can convince free agents like Sean Walker & Shane Gostisbehere so sign and give us a competent blueline. Pick up a credible middle 6 center like a Monahan. If Couture is back Eklund-Celebrini-Granlund Zetterlund-Couture-W. Smith Kostin-Monahan-Bordeleau Zadina-Sturm-Kunin G. Smith-Bailey Mukhamadullin-Walker Ghostisbehere-Thrun Ferraro-Rutta Vlasic-Burroughs Blackwood Vanecek If Couture doesn’t come back Eklund-Celebrini-Granlund Zetterlund-Monahan-Bordeleau Kostin-W. Smith-Gushchin Zadina-Sturm-Kunin G. Smith-Bailey Mukhamadullin-Walker Ghostisbehere-Thrun Ferraro-Rutta Vlasic-Burroughs Blackwood Vanecek That looks like a team that won’t finish DFL. Lots of vets with younger players. If those… Read more »

SJShorky

I wouldn’t count on Bordeleau being in the lineup next season. I think he gets traded.

Zeke

I suspect his best spot is on the ‘Cuda. It helped him last season and I’d really like to see that team get competitive. We need a place for the pipeline to develop and it’d sure be nice to have Sharks prospects playing meaningful AHL games. But if he gets moved, I hope its for a good return. Said it for the last few years, one of the best thing the Sharks can do is ‘sell high’. Hopefully there’s a ‘sell high’ window for him if the Sharks want to move on. I don’t think he’s a ‘sell high’ guy… Read more »

David Rowley

I’ve seen our Sharks give up on players too early only to see them develop somewhere else into good/decent players Way too early to give up on Bords IMO.

SJShorky

Feel free to name names. Hasn’t been many and every team goes thru that anyway. Bonino is maybe the best example but he had just been drafted. If you’re trading away prospects and getting something of valuable it’s acceptable. This regime still has a clean slate though.

Bords is just too damn small with no stand out trait. He’s not particularly fast, he’s not a great battler etc, etc. The team needs D prospects and Bords with maybe a 2nd(?)+ could potentially bring back a decent one to develop.

Last edited 8 days ago by SJShorky
Bob D

Ryan Donato 2.0 ceiling

SJShorky

Selling high is while he’s still viewed as having potential. Once scouts see him as a finished product then it’ll be his lowest value. Showed he’s not useless in his last call up so that’s likely as high as it gets. I would move Gushin too though. He’s tiny and built like a bird. Just can’t see him surviving in the NHL. Eklund at least has elite elusiveness to keep him out of harms way. Gushin and Bords are going to get crushed at some point if they become regulars in the NHL. Hope I’m wrong though.

downriver

He’s got some talent and spirit, but undersized. A good coach should help him find a role on the team, probably as a third line pest.

BryanMirkley6

I’d love the sharks to look at picking up a bad short term contract on defense. Orlov in Carolina would be a good pickup, and I’m guessing Carolina would enjoy that 7 million in cap relief to hold onto pesce/Slavin. The sharks could send over a middling prospect, and I’d actually rather see them ice something like: Orlov-emberson Mukh-Benning Ferraro/Thrun-Addison/Rutta Vlasic-Burroughs I think people forget how solid emberson looked in his limited time this year, and think he fully deserves a shot at top 4 with a good partner next year. Mukh can run the breakout while Benning holds down… Read more »

Last edited 9 days ago by BryanMirkley6
SJShorky

Slavin is going no where. He’s their best D. Doubt they move Orlov either. Not for Pesce.

Don’t see Sharks trading Thrun. He seems like a coaches dream.He just needs to work on his plyometrics to add a little more speed and he should be fine. Too early to give up on him though.

I’m in a position to watch Cagnoni a lot for practices and games and he’s a player. Not sure he’ll translate to the NHL but it won’t be for lack of effort. He seems like a hard worker and he’s incredibly intelligent on the ice.

Last edited 8 days ago by SJShorky
Alex Genadinik

Exciting! The next exciting things are:

1) How can we trade up from the 14th pick to get a great D prospect
2) Can we take on some bad assets to get more picks for this draft?

I guess we have that to ponder until the draft happens 🙂

Just Steve

I’d love to see that, but I don’t think it will happen. The only team in the top 10 who I could see being somewhat motivated to move their pick would be Jersey (definitely win-now mode), but if they did, I imagine they’d want to move him for a legit #1 goalie (someone like Saros out of Nashville). I don’t think Utah, Ottawa, Seattle, Calgary will be willing to move back to 14 unless there’s a signficant over-pay, and I don’t think any of those teams need to shed a bad contract (unless Calgary can talk Huberdeau into waving his… Read more »

Joseph

I think the days of taking on bad deals and reclamation projects are done.

Arch Mickel

While I am not on the protracted tank/rebuild timeline as some of our other SJHN friends, I think they should still be looking for bad deals and reclamation projects. Maybe not as many and they should be targeted high character/work ethic guys. Duke was a good one and Granlund; Ruta is too —though not sure where to classify him, maybe he brings back something but good mentor— but for me he is closer to guys like Hoffman were cost of doing business, and a flyer. But if Duke or Granlund are the type of guys targeted that is good; think… Read more »

SJShorky

I would love to bring back Duke with a slightly revamped roster.

Kevin

From Boston area who regularly watches Hockey East, Celebrini reminds me a lot of Bruins great Patrice Bergeron but with a little more offensive flair. He plays all 200 feet. The kid also plays well beyond his years. You have to remember that Hockey East is the SEC of college hockey and this kid dominated at just 17 – which is crazy. He was the same age as high school seniors and yet lit up the best league in college hockey. Most of these kids playing D1 hockey, especially HE, are from junior teams and over 20. There’s a huge… Read more »

Tony

I was excited when they won the lottery, but after reading your comments I am way beyond excited.

The Masala Slapper

I swear to god we need to wrap this kid in bubble wrap

splash114

It’s interesting that some our top prospects aren’t in the discussion. So, what happens to Bords, Gusch, Cardwell, Coe, etc.? If these guys can turn it up a notch and complete for positions, that’s great. These guys can be part of trades to bring in significant veteran upgrades. The best thing we have now is options. I trust GMMG to make, mostly, the right decisions.

Nimrod

I really like both Gush & Bordeleau, its a real possibility the org sees them as competing for the same roster spot in the future. I think one of them gets traded sooner or later they are both smaller middle 6 scoring right wingers, I think as other right wings in the system come through one will be the odd man out. I think Cardwell will eventually make it as a quality bottom 6 player, probably 4th line C/RW. Lets call Coe’s chances of moving up the depth chart of the Barracuda doubtful.

SJShorky

Agreed on Cardwell. I think he has a better chance of sticking than Bords or Gush due to his style of game. Probably no better than a 3rd liner but I could see him having a career there. Coe is the one you hope figures it out. Tall, fast, good skill. There’s a disconnect with him though, it seems.

The Masala Slapper

This is yet another one of the fantastic things about a Celebrini – the way it gives structure to the prospect pipeline and infuses it with strategy. Look we have no idea if those players are going to be anything. Most probably won’t. The best way to find out is competition. Remember a few years ago when Wilson was trying to foist Chmelevski and Chekhovich, who had shown nothing in the NHL, on us as the way to keep the Sharks competitive? That was a reflection of a weak pipeline. We’ve now got the guys you mentioned, but we’re not… Read more »

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