Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Celebrini to leave BU, inks 1st deal with Sharks

Eight days after taking him with the No. 1 pick, the San Jose Sharks signed Macklin Celebrini to his entry-level contract Saturday.

Celebrini, 18, said before and after the NHL draft that he wanted to consider all his options when it came to his next step. The decision facing the center was to either return to Boston University for his sophomore season or join the Sharks.

He chose the NHL and with it, the opportunity to establish himself as a top-line center while simultaneously serving as the face of a Sharks’ rebuild that has significantly changed its fortunes over the past few seasons.

“Macklin is not only a special player on the ice, but he is a poised, confident and intelligent young man off it,” Sharks general manager Mike Grier said in a statement. “His combination of skills and hockey sense is rare, and we are extremely confident that he is ready to make this transition to being a full time NHL player. We could not be more excited to have Macklin locked in formally to join the Sharks organization for the 2024-25 season.”

The early consensus No. 1 pick, Celebrini’s lone season at BU reinforced the belief that the franchise that won the NHL draft lottery would be getting the first rights to draft a player considered to be a franchise cornerstone.

Celebrini was a 17-year-old freshman at BU who finished with 32 goals and 64 points in 38 games for the Terriers. He led the Terriers in goals and points en route to them finishing with a 28-10-2 record and advancing to the national semifinal game. BU would lose in overtime to Denver, which won its 10th national title, the most in men’s college hockey history.

Although BU fell short of winning what would have been the sixth national title in its men’s program history, Celebrini won the Hobey Baker Award for the nation’s top men’s players.

His exploits only added to the hype that was known as “The Celebrini Draft” with teams such as the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Sharks having the strongest odds to draft him with the first pick.

The Sharks entered the NHL draft lottery with not only the worst record in the league but one of the poorest marks in the salary cap area. Finishing last gave them the No. 1 odds to win the lottery, which they did, and placed them in a position to draft Celebrini, who played a season for the San Jose Jr. Sharks when his family moved from North Vancouver as his father, Rick, took a job with the Golden State Warriors.

Now that they have Celebrini under contract, it appears the Sharks’ rebuild could be ready to take another step forward.

Between the 2003-04 and the 2018-19 seasons, the Sharks had only missed the playoffs once for non-lockout-related reasons. But an aging core led to a transition period that has seen the franchise miss the playoffs for the past five seasons.

Part of that transition included hiring Grier as GM in 2022 who has since used trades to bolster the club’s draft capital. The Sharks have had a pair of first-round picks in the past two drafts and will have two first-round picks in next year’s draft.

It’s a strategy that has led to them drafting United States National Team Development Program center Will Smith, Sudbury Wolves left winger Quentin Musty, London Knights defenseman Sam Dickinson and Celebrini.

Earlier this offseason, the Sharks signed Smith to his ELC after what became his lone season at Boston College where he scored 25 goals and 71 points as a freshman.

Now the Sharks have Celebrini and Smith, who were two of the nation’s top men’s collegiate players, joining a roster that already had fellow homegrown talents such as William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau and Mario Ferraro.

It’s a rebuild that has also added veterans such as Barclay Goodrow, Tyler Toffoli, Jake Walman and Alexander Wennberg in a series of moves that could see the Sharks potentially improve upon their last-place finish.

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