Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. As we go through the 2023-24 season, our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you 2024 draft class profiles and various other articles. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Today, we have the first part of our first 2024 NHL draft rankings!
2024 NHL Draft Rankings: Part One (1-5)
1) Macklin Celebrini, Centre, Boston University
Unsurprisingly, Macklin Celebrini takes the top spot in the first released LWOS rankings. Not only that, but every staff writer in the prospects department gave him the top spot. Celebrini has been everything fans and scouts could have hoped for. As a true freshman, at 17 years old, he has taken the NCAA by storm with 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points in 15 games. An absurd statline by most standards, let alone a 17-year-old in the NCAA.
Celebrini beats defenders with an incredible hockey IQ and a willingness to play with a physical edge. Smarts with a bit of gnarl already would make General Managers drool. Add a pro-ready shot? Smart passing, with an ability to break the game open with high-end vision? A solid two-way game? Talented transitional player? Simply could not ask for much more out of a player. The puck always seems to find him, and he almost always knows exactly what to do with it. The only nit-picking that can be made is the lack of break-away speed, but it is almost irrelevant with every other positive trait he has.
2) Cole Eiserman, Left Wing, USNTDP
Eiserman was ranked second by both Fred and Ben, with Kyle placing him as his third-ranked prospect. However, consolidated rankings place him at two. Deservedly so, as well. In 22 NTDP games this season, he has scored 26 goals and 17 assists and 43 points. An excellent statline, which includes a rate of more than one goal per game thus far.
Eiserman is the ultimate goal-scorer. He can change the angle of his release effortlessly and consistently, making his shot very difficult to get a read on for goalies. It also allows him to shoot even with pressure. He has the power and accuracy to score from range, the hands to beat a goalie in tight, and the ability to shoot off platform. However, to this point, he has been one-dimensional on offence. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a good passer, but he is a high-volume shooter, and with that, he can look off passing lanes for a lower percentage shot. Additionally, it’s very difficult to judge his defensive acumen, as he lacks involvement, but also isn’t really tested at the NTDP level in that area. But regardless, he has to be a bit better in his own end to avoid being a liability down the road.
3) Konsta Helenius, Centre/Right Winger, Liiga
The player that Kyle had ranked over Eiserman, Helenius checked in at third (Fred) and fifth (Ben), landing him at the third spot in our consolidated rankings. Helenius has been very impressive thus far in the top Finnish men’s league with Jukurit. In 28 games thus far, he has scored an impressive eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points. For a 17-year-old, in a men’s league, only the best of the best young stars can pull that off.
The reason for the success starts with an outstanding skating ability. While he isn’t a burner, with an ability to leave defenders in the dust consistently, he instead has shifty edges, shaking off defenders like it is nothing. That, paired with a high-end IQ allows him to manipulate defenders and create space for himself. Strong playmaking instincts allow him to take advantage of that space as well. On top of the skill, despite his slim build, he works very hard to win pucks back for his team. Maybe not physically, with body checks, but instead with an overwhelming pressure leading with his stick. Smart skater, with skilled playmaking instincts, and a high-end work ethic that is producing well against men at a very young age.
4) Ivan Demidov, Right Winger/Centre, MHL
The next player on our list was ranked third (Ben), fourth (Fred) and fifth (Kyle) by our team, and that landed him in the four spot. The ball of energy that is Demidov looks the part of a high-upside forward that someone will be more than willing to take a big swing on. Thus far, he has played at all three levels of hockey in Russia: The KHL (four games, no points), the VHL (one game, no points) and the MHL (10 games, 13 points).
Demidov, as hinted at earlier, is a workhorse. Just watching him play, you could become tired. There’s not more than a two-second span where his feet aren’t moving. Can change directions with ease, which allows him to not only create space for himself, similar to Helenius, or to stay shoulder-to-shoulder with an opposing player to take the puck away, Demidov maximizes his edges.
However, he plays with all gas and no brakes at this point. He overcomplicates situations for himself a bit too often, forcing passes that aren’t there, rather than making the smarter and safer play. He can also skate the puck into tight spots and lose possession a bit too often, in an attempt to do too much on his own. That also stands true in the defensive end, where he can be a bit undisciplined with his positioning. But the energy and the raw talent is there in spades. Eventually, he will have to rein that chaos in, and that will allow him to truly blossom.
5) Adam Jiricek, Right-Shot Defenceman, Czechia
Another European player, the top defender on the LWOS consolidated board won a tie-breaker for the fifth spot. He was ranked fifth (Fred), sixth (Kyle) and ninth (Ben) by the team. Jiricek is a bit different from the above players, not just because he is a defenceman, but because he hasn’t dominated on the scoresheet. He has largely played against men in Czechia this season, and even drew into games last season as a 16-year-old at the top men’s league. This season, he has one point across 19 contests and finished last season with two points in 12 men’s league games.
The younger brother of David Jiricek, Adam is a strong skater. He displays an outstanding ability to shift from backwards to forwards. It’s displayed in his ability to shift from attacking to defending, the way he walks the blue line, and with how he can manipulate opposing players while in the offensive zone with quick changes of direction. That skating ability allows him to display strong quarterbacking skills already, both with a very strong passing ability and a heavy shot. Jiricek has also proven to be a very efficient puck transporter, again largely due to his skating. But it is his defending ability that stands out. Jiricek has outstanding awareness, keeping plays to the outside. He can then shut them down with high-end anticipation and an effective poke check.
The reason he has not truly broken out offensively is to be blamed on his generally conservative style. He focuses on staying back a bit more. But it is also due to his shots being blocked fairly often. That’s due in part to an inconsistent vision as a playmaker.
Main Photo: John Mersits / USA TODAY NETWORK