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NHL Draft 2024: What We're Hearing About Ivan Demidov, Trades And More

NHL Draft 2024: What We're Hearing About Ivan Demidov, Trades And More

NHL Draft analyst Chris Peters is on the ground in Las Vegas and shares some of the latest of what he's hearing about certain draft picks and trades.

Jun 27, 2024 by Chris Peters

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The only thing hotter than the desert heat is the anticipation for Friday night's first round. It wouldn't be Las Vegas without fireworks and whether it's the order of the picks or the trades that could happen, there should be a ton of activity. 

I've been on the ground in Sin City since Tuesday and have been working the phones to see what kind of insight I can gather on how Friday will go. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming feeling is that this is going to be one of the most unpredictable drafts after the first pick in recent memory. Teams are bracing for any sort of chaos scenarios that could come into play.

Macklin Celebrini’s Plans For Next Season In Focus

Celebrini has played coy and at times overly humble about not wanting to say much before he gets picked or – in his words – “if” he gets picked first overall. While we appreciate the humility, there is no mystery to who will go No. 1 Friday night.

Where there is still some debate is if Celebrini will sign with San Jose right away or return to Boston University for his sophomore season. Conversations I've had with connected sources suggest the most likely scenario is he will turn pro this summer, but there will still be some details to be ironed out.

The Celebrini family is expected to speak with the Sharks and have conversations about what’s best for the future. But most people I’ve talked to have said they expect that Celebrini will sign and the San Jose Sharks will enter next season with their two highest-profile prospects, Celebrini and Will Smith, on the NHL roster on opening night, barring anything unforeseen.

That's good news for the Sharks marketing and ticket sales departments as the two young stars are sure to inject some positivity into the franchise after the slog of the last few seasons.

Chicago Blackhawks' Plans At No. 2 Solidified

When Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson met with the media Thursday, he told gathered reporters that the team will be making the pick and they know who they are going to take. True to form, he did not reveal who that player would be.

It’s been a lot harder to find anyone inside the scouting community that sees anything other than Chicago taking Artyom Levshunov at No. 2. The defenseman from Michigan State University has met with the team multiple times and there seems to be a lot of comfort between the two sides with each other.

Chicago met with Ivan Demidov in Florida last week, but there has been little indication that changed the dynamic for their decision.

As for next steps, Levshunov will at least consider returning to school if that’s what the team that drafts him wants, but I believe his preference would be to sign a pro contract. Levshunov may not be ready to jump right into the NHL, but because he played in the NCAA, he would be eligible to play in the AHL as early as next season.

Levshunov has been a hit with the media and his fellow prospects due to his gregarious nature and sense of humor and likely would be a popular fixture in Chicago over time. That said, there's a large segment of Chicago's fan base that desperately wants to see the team draft Ivan Demidov, but that does not appear to be the direction they will go in, unless there's a giant curveball waiting at No. 2 to enhance the drama of night one.

Ivan Demidov Seems Destined To Be A Top Five Pick, But Where?

Ivan Demidov has been one of the most talked-about and debated prospects in the NHL Draft this season, especially lately. He’s a premium scoring talent in the draft, but there is still some mystery to the player for NHL teams due to the lack of live viewings and having played in a lower level all season. He would be the highest-drafted player who primarily played in the MHL, Russia's U20 league, during his draft season.

While Chicago was believed to be interested and still debating between Demidov and Levshunov, it appears that’s closer to settled. The Anaheim Ducks were one of the teams that met with Demidov privately in Florida during the Gold Star Sports camp. Demidov did not mention Columbus when talking about teams that have talked to him, but they did have a contingent in Florida as well.

Demidov did, however, confirm that he has met with Montreal several times over the course of the season. Montreal’s advantage is having a head scout in Nick Bobrov, who is a native Russian and had previously worked with SKA St. Petersburg. If anyone is going to know the player best, it’s probably Bobrov.

Demidov also said he is expecting to meet with Montreal Thursday, when the team has its full contingent with them as they prepare for the NHL Draft.

The real question, however, is will Demidov still be there at No. 5? Anaheim is a real wild card in that they have the prospect pool to insulate some of the risk tied with Demidov, but it's not clear he fits their profile of prospect. They do, however, have a talented young Russian in Pavel Mintyukov, who is also represented by Gold Star, that would help potentially smooth the transition once Demidov arrives if he were to be picked.

Columbus is believed to be looking primarily at premium centers, which would indicate Cayden Lindstrom is the preferred player. Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that Columbus turned down a larger package offer from Philadelphia to trade down. With Philly's stated desire to land a center, you'd have to think they were targeting Lindstrom with that pick. Columbus's reported refusal to trade it shows how strongly they feel about the top of this draft class. 

My expectation is Demidov will not fall past No. 5 in the draft.

Anaheim Ducks Bring The Intrigue

The nuclear codes might be better protected than who the Anaheim Ducks are going to select at No. 3. Asking around, it seems that a lot of teams in the upper portion of the draft are guessing just as much as we are in the media. 

Pat Verbeek is not one to tip his hand. It makes sense, of course. There's so much value in what the Ducks hold. Their options are plentiful, too.

They could nab Demidov as noted above. Cayden Lindstrom seems like he'd be a fit for what they're building with a burly forward group, but I don't know if they'd value him any higher than their current centers in their system and I don't know that I would either. There's also been plenty of discussion about the Ducks getting the big defenseman Anton Silayev with No. 3, which would add a dynamic to their blue line that isn't going to be as prevalent in the long term based on what their system looks like. And yes, they do have some really good young defensemen, but I think Silayev would slot higher than most of them in the upside department.

One other option that would create an impact on the draft floor is Beckett Sennecke. I couldn't tell you definitively if that's the direction the Ducks would go in, but he fits their recent draft profile. With Anaheim decently well set down the middle, could they take the big swing on the high-upside Sennecke, who is close to 6-foot-3 and still operating like he was in the skills department from when he was 5-11 just two years ago? 

The Ducks are a real wild card and that chaos scenario of picking Sennecke, who has not been in the top three discussion all year, is one that is actively being speculated about. When the vault is as tight as the Ducks' seems to be, this is the kind of stuff you start hearing. I still think Anton Silayev is the most likely player picked, but we're all simply guessing right now.

One other element of intrigue: Hockey insiders are still wondering if Trevor Zegras is going to be moved by Anaheim around the draft or free agency. He's not being shopped, per se, but teams have been circling. It sounds like the price to acquire him will be high and according to one source, perhaps too high right now. Anaheim may hold onto him to see if that value changes so they can get what they want, but that's a name to keep an eye on this weekend. Also, if he gets moved before the draft, would that change plans for the Ducks at No. 3? Everything seems to be on the table now.

Zeev Buium's Stock On The Rise

Defenseman Zeev Buium says he will have more than 80 people in his contingent at the NHL Draft including family that flew in from Israel. I don't think they're going to have to wait terribly long to hear Zeev Buium's name called.

There has been a lot more buzz of late that Buium could go much higher than anticipated in the draft. A lot of teams like him, but it's unclear which of the top 10 teams likes him the most. There's no question he has endeared himself to teams through his interviews and in the way he played this season and scouts I've talked to feel there's at least a chance he could be the best defenseman to come out of this draft.

Buium couldn't offer much insight into a range he'll go himself, but it is my sense the San Diego native should be in the mix within the top eight picks. I think it's possible Anaheim gives him a long look, Utah is another team that looks like it could be a fit and I feel like there's little to no way he's available past Seattle at No. 8. He brings too much to the table for teams to pass on him, and the style of game he plays continues to be more prevalent in the NHL. 

Making Sense Of The Buffalo Sabres And San Jose Sharks Trade 

The Buffalo Sabres moved down in the draft from No. 11 to No. 14. They also picked up the 42nd overall pick in the second round for their trouble in the deal with the San Jose Sharks. 

This is an interesting move for Buffalo, but one that makes a lot of sense. The players that are most likely to be available in the No. 11 range are a bit redundant for what they have. When you look at players like Konsta Helenius and Berkly Catton, they are sub 6-foot centers and the Sabres have drafted a number of sub 6-foot forwards in recent drafts. Trading this pick tells me they still feel pretty strongly about Matthew Savoie and Noah Ostlund, and we already know how strongly they feel about Zach Benson after his rookie season.

By trading down, Buffalo can find a player that better fits their system while not giving away a ton of value. On top of that, they get an additional second-round pick which can be used in a variety of ways. 

Players that should be available in the No. 14 range that might entice the Sabres include Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, Adam Jiricek, Stian Solberg, Cole Eiserman and Liam Greentree, among others. The Sabres could probably use a little more jam in their system and that would be provided by either the two top Norwegians, Brandsegg-Nygard and Solberg. Eiserman is an elite goal scorer. Liam Greentree is a big body with high-end hockey sense and a track record of production. While Adam Jiricek is a right-shot defenseman that their system lacks, though he comes with some injury history that may give them, and other teams for that matter, pause.

There's also still the possibility that Buffalo could move the No. 14 pick for a player that provides more immediate help. The pressure is on in Buffalo to improve the NHL roster and No. 14 still has plenty of value to do that if the right deal is there.

My belief is that the Sharks are most likely to use the No. 11 pick on a defenseman. They should be able to land one of the top six defensemen in this draft, with both Zayne Parekh and Carter Yakemchuk being among the most likely to still be on the board at No. 11. Both are right-shot, offensive-minded blueliners that would fill one of the Sharks' most glaring organizational holes at this point.

Rutger McGroarty Trade Chatter Continues

Away from the actual selections, there’s been a lot of talk about prospect Rutger McGroarty and his status after Elliotte Friedman reported on 32 Thoughts that McGroarty was likely to be traded by the Winnipeg Jets. 

I’ve heard that there is a lot of interest in Rutger McGroarty on the trade market. Because of the value a lot of teams are placing on the top 15 of the 2024 draft class, it’s going to be harder for Winnipeg to land a premium pick. McGroarty was selected 14th overall in 2022 and I don't know that Winnipeg would be able to recoup similar value at that draft slot.

Another scenario that surfaced is that McGroarty could be moved for another prospect and that may end up being Winnipeg’s preference to get a player with a shorter NHL timeline, or one similar to McGroarty’s.

The soon-to-be Michigan junior is well regarded after his breakout sophomore season with the Wolverines and captaining Team USA to gold at the World Junior Championship. 

I had heard from some other scouts who don’t think he’d be NHL ready immediately and if he decided to sign with the team that acquires him, he may need additional seasoning in the AHL. However, McGroarty also really enjoys the University of Michigan and if it’s another season between college and the AHL, he may choose college for one more season.

It’s certainly not the worst thing for him as there are still elements McGroarty can work on to get closer to the top of his game. Either way, I think Winnipeg should be able to get fair value in a deal. It just might not for a draft pick. We'll see how quickly this one develops.

The Showmanship Of The Sphere On Full Display

The Sphere is going to provide a unique floorplan for the NHL Draft this season. According to those who have seen the layout, the stage will be in the middle of the draft floor as opposed to being at one end. Prospects will essentially have a runway to walk to the stage to greet the commissioner after they are picked.

I've also heard that some teams will have some celebrities and former players announce picks as opposed to the traditional GM announcing the pick. There is a clear aim to bring more of a show to the draft this time around, especially with this being the last centralized draft.

The exosphere, or the outside screens are expected to display highlights of the players, which several of them are excited about. "I'm going to be all over Las Vegas?" asked Artyom Levshunov, and gave a big smile when he heard about the plans.

There is a lot more that we don't know about how everything will look than we do know, but this certainly promises to be an incredible experience for all able to attend and it should look pretty cool on TV, too.

Other Rumblings

  • I asked Berkly Catton if he could predict a range for himself and the Spokane Chiefs center said No. 5 to No. 12 is what he's thinking. That sounds about right to me. I'll be very interested to see what order he goes in vs. Konsta Helenius. Both players are very skilled, but Helenius may have a little more off-puck value in some teams' eyes. 
  • Michael Hage and Jett Luchanko are two players I've been hearing some increased buzz on as potential top-15 picks. If Celebrini is in his own tier, and others like Cayden Lindstrom, Konsta Helenius and Berkly Catton are in the next tier of centers, Luchanko and Hage are firmly at the head of the next group. If not Top 15, they could each go in the 16-20 range.
  • Many NHL teams have an outsized contingent in Las Vegas right now. A number of teams have also brought their pro scouts out and will work on free agency from board rooms here. The tight timelines of the NHL season ending, the NHL Awards being held, the two days of the draft and the start of free agency has made for a chaotic finish to the campaign. This is going to be an intense week for NHL staffs with a lot of big decisions to be made.

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