NHL draft Big Board: Updated top-32 rankings following under-18 championships, draft lottery


The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing, the lottery balls have been pulled, and the draft order is nearly set. More than half of the NHL teams have turned their attention to preparing for the NHL draft and free agency.

For many fan bases, interest has spiked in a number of prospects in the upcoming draft. More than in most years, this is a class where after the No. 1 spot, every team’s list seems to be vastly different. One player is ranked as high as sixth by one team and that same player is ranked 19th by another. The discrepancy in how these players are being viewed is more vast than usual.

As discussed in the March rankings, there are a lot of quality defensemen available at the top of the draft. As many as six could go in the top 10, and all are expected to be top-four defenders at the NHL level.

The difference between these rankings and the ones in March is that the model is weighted less heavily in favor of scouting reports and viewings. While the model is the driving factor in the rankings and provides guardrails for tiers of players, adjustments are made for the “eye test.” Industry whispers are not considered, and these rankings are 75% model-based and 25% scouting-based. The final rankings that will come out the week of the draft will be closer to 50-50 and include adjustments for industry intel, combine testing and positional value.

As it pertains to public rankings, it is not the job of the public to suss out who should and shouldn’t be on a list based on team culture, fit with organizations and overall draft strategy. That rests with individual teams, and is why the mock draft will vary significantly from the rankings. There are a few players who some teams value higher than the public for various reasons, and there are always a few that are considered “do not draft” by teams because they are perceived to not fit with the organization for one reason or another.

There is no “fit” with a public ranking; the public doesn’t have a team. However, where these caveats apply, an explanation will be included.

Here is the updated list with six weeks to go before the draft, which will be held in Las Vegas at the Sphere on Friday, June 28 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) and Saturday, June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+).

1. Macklin Celebrini
F, Boston University (NCAA)

Previous ranking: 1

A franchise cornerstone center who will be immediately impactful. Celebrini is the prize of the NHL draft class, and for good reason. He is a 200-foot player capable of making a difference at both ends of the ice. He’s a play driver and was one of a handful of true freshmen to win the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s top player.

Offensively, he drives the middle of the ice, cuts through defensive schemes and finds passing lanes that others cannot see. His ability to protect the puck and willingness to play through contact, spin off defenders and stick with the play are translatable to the NHL. Off the puck, he remains a threat to score because of his ability to find open spaces, keep his stick away from defenders and release the puck quickly. His hockey sense and vision are high end and have me believing he will be a solid two-way player who is elite in transition.

He’s not generational, but he is transformative for a franchise and will be a rebuild expediter.

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