San Jose Sharks stay up for welcoming Macklin Celebrini to the NHL Draft

LAS VEGAS — General manager Mike Grier and other members of the San Jose Sharks front office recently had dinner with Macklin Celebrini. Grier said the meeting was extremely nice because Celebrini showed a maturity unusual for his age.

It didn't take long for everybody to note one other element of the teenager's personality.

“His parents raised him really well,” Grier said of Rick and Robyn Celebrini. “But if you sit down with him for two minutes, I think you can really feel his drive and his competitiveness just jumping out at him.”

If the Sharks select Celebrini first within the NHL Draft on Friday on the Sphere in Las Vegas, they are going to not only get their future No. 1 center, but in addition someone who will lead his team into battle.

Considering the Sharks are expected to field a young team next season, this trait should make Celebrini extremely useful to a rebuilding franchise.

“It raises everyone's standards,” Celebrini's friend and fellow hopeful Cole Eiserman said Wednesday. “In practice, when a player is really competitive and he's tearing you down … it gets annoying and you want to get back at him. It inspires other players to be competitive and it creates a really positive atmosphere on the ice and in the locker room. It makes everyone better.”

“He plays a really complete game at both ends of the ice, he's dedicated and I love his competitiveness,” Grier said of Celebrini after the Sharks won the draft lottery in May. “You watch him practice and he works on every drill and does his best in every drill. He wants to win every puck battle.”

“He is a truly unique player at this age.”

That competitive spirit is at all times there, even when it's nearly having fun.

On Wednesday, Celebrini and 4 other top talents led a clinic for girls and boys ages 5 to 10 on the City National Arena on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The talents and young children did some fun drills before a casual game began.

It didn't take long for Celebrini, Zeev Buium, Tij Iginla and Zayne Parekh to show up the intensity. Celebrini and Iginla were on one team, Buium and Parekh on the opposite.

“I know we had a lot of fun out there,” Celebrini said. “I think we were a little bit ambitious.”

Soon, just a few guys were running from coast to coast, attempting to get certainly one of the young players to get a shot on goal. There was the occasional shoving of the boards, jostling in front of the goal, and perhaps even just a little trash talk amongst the longer term NHL stars.

“Macklin was a little upset that he was over there and had to lose to me again,” said Buium, a defenseman who played a key role within the University of Denver’s victory over Celebrini’s Boston University Terriers within the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals in April.

Wednesday's event was held along side the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, whose members helped conduct the drills and remained kind of on the sidelines during informal games.

“These guys come out here, the pressure is off, and you can see their passion and love for the game and their competitive spirit,” said former NHL goalie Al Montoya, a member of the coalition. “Me? I've got my back against the wall so my legs don't get ripped out from under me. These guys don't care. They're having fun out here, and (Celebrini) is a damn good player, and he's going to be a damn good player for a long time.”

For Celebrini, this desire to win and – just as importantly – this hatred of losing is an element of his DNA.

Not only were his parents outstanding athletes themselves—Rick played for the Canadian national soccer team and Robyn was a standout soccer player for the University of British Columbia—but he also frequently competed against his older brother Aiden and his friends throughout his childhood in North Vancouver.

“I feel like as a kid you always want to win,” Celebrini said while talking to reporters after Wednesday's event. “I always played against my brother and his older friends or my friends. You never want to lose because then someone has something against you. If it's your friends, they can get mad at you about it.”

“This competition has always existed, and I feel like where I grew up, I just grew up with it.”

Four years ago, when Eiserman and Celebrini were teammates at Shattuck-St. Mary's, they became so competitive sooner or later that they broke one another's rackets.

“I actually still have his broken cane in my room,” Eiserman said. “I took it back from Shattuck and will always keep it.”

Celebrini has not officially said whether he’ll turn pro or return to Boston University for his sophomore yr. The winner of the 2023-2024 Hobey Baker Award as the most effective college hockey player said that call will likely be made after the draft, after further discussions with the team that takes him, his parents and his advisors, although it could be a surprise to see him return to highschool.

Once he turns pro, the Sharks will get a special player, with loads of competitive spirit and all.

“Watching him play in Shattuck, skating with him, practicing with him, it's unbelievable,” Buium said. “He's got the shot, he can skate, he's got hands, IQ, he's got everything. And if he's not scoring, he's probably going to run you over.”

“So the Sharks are getting an all-rounder. One who will help them win the Stanley Cup.”

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