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Top-15 final draft 2024: In 15 years, who will have been the best?
Credit: Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

Every year, there are around 5-6 players – sometimes more – selected in the top 15 who will not finish among the best players of their cohort at the end of their career, and who will therefore never have become the impact players that many saw in them.

This is absolutely normal.

In layman’s terms, teams spy on 17-18 year-old players for a few months and, as they finalize their roster, take a kind of graduation photo a few weeks before the big night.

Now, like your high school or CEGEP acquaintances, some will turn out well over the next 10-15-20 years, others a little less so…

As Elton John would say, it’s the great circle of life.

And that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Don’t be afraid to break away from the McKenzie and company lists when it’s time to look ahead and ask yourself which of these hopefuls will really have been the best of the lot in 10-15 years’ time.

Having analyzed some fifty players over the past few months, I won’t hesitate to pick out a few favourites that we almost never see in the various top-15s or, at the very least, that we rarely see this high up.

The following exercise, which is NOT AT ALL A MOCK DRAFT (we’ll be publishing one soon with my colleague Marc-Olivier Beaudoin), is all the more interesting when you consider that, year in, year out, the draft produces just about fifteen impact players…

After concocting a mid-season top-15 in February, here’s my final, all-personal top-15 for the 2024 draft.

1. Macklin Celebrini: No way! Celebrini isn’t one to think outside the box! The Vancouver native, around whom everyone is unanimous, has a huge chance of being the best player of his generation. But don’t expect him to break all records next year…

2. Ivan Demidov : I’ll spare you everything you already know about him: the talent, the hands, the motor, the work ethic and so on. Demidov probably remains the only one who has a legitimate chance of dethroning Celebrini during his career. Provided his body holds up, of course.

3. Zeev Buium : This Californian, both spectacular and effective offensively as well as very solid defensively, is very rarely identified as the best defender of 2024. And yet, in my eyes, he is by far the one who has achieved the most this season. Firstly, winning the gold medal at the WJC with the USA in a leading role despite his young age at just 18, that’s noteworthy. Secondly, he won the NCAA title with Denver as his team’s best player in his rookie year!

None of his competitors claim such feats. In my opinion, if only one defenseman in the 2024 crop were ever to come close to Fox, Makar and Hughes, it would be Buium. Here’s a future elite No. 1 who uses his head first to play hockey and defend his territory.

4. Cayden Lindstrom : As with Demidov, if Lindstrom stays healthy, the chances of him excluding himself from the top-15 in the next few years are very slim. He has all the qualities we look for in a modern power forward and more. Lindstrom will quickly become a top-3 forward for whichever team selects him. A logical target for the Habs at #5, needless to say.

5. Sam Dickinson : Opinions are pretty unanimous on Dickinson: he’s perhaps the safest bet of the whole cohort after Celebrini. His stock has climbed even higher after his solid performance at the Memorial Cup. Think of him as a mix of Bouwmeester, Power and Matheson. It’s hard to go wrong with a top-15 finish like that! Chances are he’ll become the #1 defenseman on whichever team drafts him. I’d be very surprised if he’s good enough in Kent Hughes’ eyes to make him go back on his word about not drafting a left-handed defenseman, but maybe his scouts think otherwise…

6. Michael Brandsegg-Nygard : Aside from Celebrini, MBN is perhaps the only one to have remained relatively static on the most-quoted lists and mock drafts since the start of the year. He’s almost always ranked 15th or 16th! I had him at No. 6 in February, I still have him there in June and still see him as the most underrated player in the various top-20s. A superb WCJ, followed by a very solid Senior World Championship, while showing fine progress at Mora in Sweden’s Division 2. It’s impossible to miss out on this latecomer , who displays such consistency, drive, intelligence and talent with every appearance on the ice. The most complete winger in the draft.

7. Tij Iginla: Iginla didn’t score all those goals by chance. He scored some big goals at U18, plays an intense and effective style and his shot is simply dreamlike. Another great value. You can bet a few bucks that when you go back to the 2024 draft on hockeydb in 10 years, he’ll easily be in the top 15 of his gang.

8. Cole Hutson : What, the “other guy’s little brother” ahead of Levshunov, Parekh and Yakemchuk? Well, yes! I’ve been far more impressed by Hutson’s talent, his intelligent, aggressive, competitive and efficient play at U18 than by anyone else’s in the various competitions and leagues I’ve seen. Hutson’s value dipped a little over the winter following an ankle injury that kept him out of the game for a few months, but his strong comeback at U18 where he was voted best defender of the tournament (playing at 70% of his ability!) certainly boosted his rating. Not bad defensively, despite his modest size, and his team’s best player in the final against Canada, lost to the imbecility of Trevor Connelly who, interestingly enough, had already stayed with the Hutson team for a few weeks a few summers ago. Listen to this from the 19th minute:

Finally, if Cam York – which is far inferior to him – came out 14th in 2019, why is Hutson so often placed at the end of the first, even second round this year when it’s now been proven over and over again that defensemen in his style can become stars in the NHL?

9. Beckett Sennecke : It’s hard to predict where the Ontarian will end up compared to his 2024 peers a decade from now, but he should carve out an advantageous spot in the top-15. Not the most interesting defensively, but we’ve perhaps only seen the surface of Sennecke’s potential, as he possesses, among other things, golden hands and an impressive stride.

10. Artyom Levshunov : Opinions are very divided on Levshunov. Many see him as the best defenseman of his generation, while others, like Grant McCaag, severely question his sense of play. I’m a bit in between the two camps, but I’ve been a bit disillusioned over the past few months, when I had him ranked 4th in February. Levshunov has too much athleticism not to have a great career, but he’s not always the smartest player on the ice…

11. Anton Silayev: You can already bet a mortgage payment or two that Silayev won’t be in the top 15 scorers of his vintage by the end of his career. But, the man who played in the KHL in his age-17 season will forge a place for himself among the top 15 players of 2024, much as Nikita Zadorov is doing (2013). We might also have thought of Tyler Myers (2008), but the latter is still the 14th-best scorer of his cohort… Like many large, defensive-minded defensemen, it won’t be until his late twenties that we’ll see the best of Silayev, and that’s when we’ll like him a lot in the playoffs. Patience, then.

12. Berkly Catton : I’m not his biggest fan, but if he avoids boo-boos, the creative Saskatchewannais will find a way to make his share of points and slip into the discussion of the top 15 players in his draft year, as Cole Perfetti is currently doing. Catton is a slightly superior skater, but playing mostly on the periphery and without much physical strength, he doesn’t have the dog of a Seth Jarvis. And above all, please, let’s stop Twittering ourselves with false analogies like:

13. Cole Eiserman : Whether you like the player or not, much like Catton, it would still be very daring not to project Eiserman among the top 15 players or, at the very least, the top 15 scorers of his vintage, as he may well be the most prolific scorer. An improved version of Mike Hoffman? That’s about it, yes, only a little more rugged and willing in the offensive zone. And, who knows, if he matures a little between the ears and starts getting a little more involved on the ice in all three zones, maybe he’ll end up a lot higher on this list at the end of his career…

14. Stian Solberg : In 14th position, I preferred to go with one of my favorites of recent months, smoking at the last Senior World Championship, Stian Solberg. The Norwegian defenseman presents himself as a kind of Alexander Romanov, stronger, more mobile and more talented offensively. However, if we were to redo the 2018 draft, Romanov would easily be in the top-15, so… Solberg also displays a much more pro-like style than Parekh and Yakemchuk, who many favourably place on their list…

15. Terik Parascak : Another small left-field breakthrough, Alberta’s Parascak certainly played with older, relatively talented players on a good club with the Prince George Cougars this year, but he still recorded 105 points in 68 games at age 17, while posting a +49 record! Not the most explosive of skaters, nor the strongest, but think of a complementary winger with above-average intelligence like Joshua Roy and Tyler Toffoli and you get Parascak.


I focused on players with an impressive number of highly sought-after, dominant qualities that are perfectly transposable to the NHL, and this is what I came up with! I also had thoughts for Sacha Boisvert and Teddy Stiga…

No Parekh? No, future power play specialist or player who may never adapt perfectly to the NHL.

No Yakemchuk? Hmmm… just barely, no. Maybe a future top-4, but is it enough to make the top 15 of this cohort?

No Helenius? Hell no!

No Connelly, either? Hell no! A fine future specimen for the KHL!

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