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Celebrini, Grier Take Us Behind the Scenes of Decision To Sign With Sharks

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Credit: Dean Tait/Hockey Shots

Macklin Celebrini’s decision to go pro came down to the last few weeks.

Celebrini, the first-overall pick of the 2024 Draft, signed with the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, forgoing his college eligibility.

But there was a lot going behind the scenes to get to this day for Celebrini and the Sharks.

Since the San Jose Sharks won the Draft Lottery on May 7, GM Mike Grier hasn’t been coy about who he was going to take with the No. 1 selection. But according to Grier, it wasn’t until the Combine in early June that he felt certain that the 2024 Hobey Baker Award winner was ready, both on and off the ice, for the NHL.

On the ice?

“At his age, the maturity he played with, playing a full 200-foot game, getting into the middle of the rink, making plays, handling contact when some of these older teams went after him, he never backed down. His play kind of speaks for itself,” Grier said of Celebrini’s Boston University campaign. “World Juniors, youngest kid out there, and he was Canada’s go-to guy. From a player’s standpoint, we thought that he’s ready and he’ll be able to handle it.”

Off the ice sealed the deal.

“But what really pushed us over the edge was our interview and dinner with him at the Combine where he just showed a maturity beyond his years, his drive and his passion and his want to be a great player in this league. When you’re around those type of players, I think you recognize it,” Grier said. “He kind of has that alpha mentality that made us believe he’s ready to handle the ups and downs and the rigors of an NHL season.”

Grier cited teammates like (Sharks hockey operations advisor) Doug Weight, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau, and players that he coached or was in the same organization with like Jack Hughes, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane, as having a similar alpha mentality.

“Jack Hughes is built the same way,” Grier, New Jersey Devils assistant coach from 2018 to 2020, said. “Jack thinks he can do anything on the rink at anytime. Thinks he’s always the best player on the ice.”

So Grier and the San Jose Sharks were sold. But what about Celebrini?

There were definitely more ideal landing spots than last year’s Sharks, arguably the worst team of the cap era.

“A couple of weeks before the [Jun.28] Draft, I met with his dad and his agent and kind of went over the plan, what we’re hoping to do, what we’re going to try and do, things we outlined for Macklin, little things like that,” Grier said. “It was important to him and his family and representation to know that we were going to be a better team this year and more competitive team and have some good vets around him who could help, help guide him through the ups and downs in the season.”

There probably hasn’t been a busier GM than Grier in the last three weeks.

On Jun. 19, he claimed two-time Stanley Cup winner and defensive ace Barclay Goodrow off waivers.

Before the Draft, he traded for speedy grinders Ty Dellandrea and Carl Grundstrom, and two-way defenseman Jake Walman.

On Jul. 1, he signed sniper Tyler Toffoli to a four-year, $24 million contract and two-way center Alexander Wennberg to a two-year, $10 million pact.

Celebrini and his camp were certainly paying attention.

“The pieces that were already there and bringing in those guys, it was definitely exciting,” Celebrini said.

Grier isn’t trying to build a Stanley Cup winner next year, but the San Jose Sharks promise to be actually hard to play against, unlike last year’s -150 Goal Differential squad, worst since the 1993-94 Ottawa Senators’ -196.

“That’s been kind of the goal here, to kind of try and insulate him and Will [Smith], so they don’t feel like they got the weight of the world on the shoulders and they got to go out and produce every single night,” Grier said. “We’ll let him find his way [too], I’m sure there’ll be some ups and downs along the way.”

The last step before Celebrini’s final decision?

Just days after the Sharks made him the No. 1 pick, Celebrini was off to San Jose for development camp, which culminated in a prospects scrimmage on Thursday, Jul. 4.

“I tried to keep everything open until the end of the week, Friday. After my exit meetings, once I got back to the hotel, I kind of knew. That was when it really sunk in with me that I knew what I had to do,” Celebrini said. “Every time I thought about coming to the Sharks, I was just really excited.”

It sounds like other top Sharks prospects like Will Smith, Quentin Musty, Kasper Halttunen, and others made Celebrini feel right at home, as did staff and mentors like Grier, Thornton, Marleau, Mike Ricci, and more.

“Over the time [of development camp], I just found myself getting more and more excited, and seeing the guys that we have, the young guys that were there that I’m kind of growing with and going through this process with, it really just made me understand it’s a really exciting time,” Celebrini said. “There’s a lot of potential for our group.”

So now, contract finalized Saturday morning — the Draft Lottery, Combine, 2024 Draft, and development camp are over — the teenage phenom can put his entire focus on his San Jose Sharks’ debut.

The 6-foot-0, 197-pound wunderkind will be hitting the gym, mostly in his hometown Vancouver.

“Now you’re playing against men and you’re playing against grown men. So it’s just getting stronger, bigger, faster,” he said. “Just being able to protect yourself and being able to separate yourself when needed.”

Oct.10, when the San Jose Sharks open the season, can’t come soon enough for the fans — and for Celebrini.

“It’s something that I’ve dreamed of ever since I was a kid, playing in the NHL. The debut is definitely going to be very exciting, and I can’t wait for it,” he said. “It’s definitely something that I’m thinking about, but it honestly still seems so far away.”

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Mark Sanny

Hi!! You people our smarter than me however @ 73 years old I have some wisdom!! You cannot have enforcers on the team that need to.be taken care of these kids cause baby sitting with law n order will be so necessary!! Never forgive or forget Dave Taylor taking out Thomas Hertle knee!!

BurnsiesBeard

Man you need to put down the bottle

Ricky W

I dont think anyone is going to be taking liberties on the kid, however it is an incredibly fast game with grown men flying around as long as he has elite skating ability and good awareness he’ll be fine. The center does have more responsibilities behind the net while the D is handling the blue paint it will be interesting to see him in the corners against grown NHLers

BurnsiesBeard

He will be fine, you think he hadn’t had a target on his back his whole career including NCAA hockey against grown men? He knows how to play the game well and on top of that, the kid is 6 feet 190 lbs, literally grown man sized. I repeat, he will be fine

Nimrod

Dustin Brown took out Hertl’s knee; that 2013 Sharks team had: Mike Brown,Adam Burrish, Andrew Desjardins,Bracken Kerns, Matt Pele had, Tommy Wingels & Raffi Torres.

Nimrod

*Pelech. Not Pele had.

Douglas Fowler

What a great comment, thx

maxi

that dude has done a lot of damage not only to the Sharks, a hard, physical player, US Hockey Hall of Fame, 2 times Stanly Cap, history remembers winners, Hertl has none but might have one, Couture who he headbutt, most likely will not.

SJShorky

Dude… Dave Taylor was long retired when Hertl got his knee taken out and the Sharks had plenty of enforcers when that happened. The name you’re looking for is Dustin Brown. You want an enforcer? Gianavi Smith is about as legit as you’ll find left in the league.

Alaskan_ice

Mike Grier.

That is all.

Rick

Remember, Bedard got his jaw broken last year. Yes players will target him as they do all rookies. The question is how he handles it.

Swede_Shark

I look forward to this season, to have a little bit of fresh legs on the ice, no big hopes on points and standings but curious about the youngsters.

Random question, who’s the guy in the middle on the picture? I don’t recognize him, is he some Shark staff?

Darren

It looks like Chris Morehouse. Director of Amateur Scouting

David Gotlieb

I believe your referring to Chris Morehouse director of amateur scouting

Phil

Chris Morehouse

Director of Amateur Scouting for the Sharks

Swede_Shark

Thanks Darren, David and Phil! 🙂

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