Five of the top prospects of the 2024 NHL Draft took time on Friday afternoon to address the media from the NHL Combine at Buffalo’s Harborcenter. Macklin Celebrini, Artyom Levshunov, Zeev Buium, Cayden Lindstrom and Zayne Parekh all spoke about how their weeks have gone as they hope to make their best impression for teams through the interview process and fitness testing.

We will share three takeaways from each player for a total of 15 takeaways. These will either be interesting things said or facts that they shared. We will start with the projected top pick of the draft in Celebrini.

Macklin Celebrini

Before Friday, Celebrini already stated that he was still unsure if he would go to the NHL or return to school. If and when the San Jose Sharks take him (not a matter of if), everyone involved will consult and make a decision.

-Celebrini was asked what advantage there would be to going back to school. He provided a detailed and interesting answer. It at least suggests he wouldn’t be opposed to the idea.

“I feel like it’ll just give me a little bit more time to develop,” Celebrini said. “There’s never really shame. There’s nothing wrong with just taking your time and improving a little bit more, getting strong, getting bigger, getting faster. So I feel like in those ways, another year would benefit me just to get more physically ready and just make sure I’m very strong when I try to make that jump.”

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-Celebrini then admitted to having dinner with San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier this week. While he admitted trying to approach every interview the same this week (he had seven of them), the Sharks’ interview he said made him a little nervous. He said Grier “was awesome. He has a great personality and made a lot of jokes. So it was cool.”

-Celebrini said in the other interviews he had excluding the Sharks that teams wanted to get to know him. “I feel like it was an understanding of who I am, who I am as a kid, my family, my background. All my interviews, it’s more get to know you, see what you’re like as a kid, your interests, just to really understand the kind of person I am.”

Artyom Levshunov

-All eyes are on the Chicago Blackhawks with the second-overall pick and if they’ll take Levshunov at that spot. There has been a lot of talk around that possibility. Levshunov talked about how those meetings went.

“I think I talked with them a lot of times,” Levshunov said. “We went to dinner with them last night. It was a good conversation with them. It was good to meet with them. I think. We’ll see. Never know.”

-Levshunov was asked how soon he felt he’d be ready for the NHL. “I think it takes a little bit of time to prepare for it and to be ready and to play in the show. But I think it takes a little time.”

-Levshunov also admitted that he wanted to go the CHL route. However due to the Russian situation, he couldn’t go that route. He had to go the USHL route and then to college. “I just wanted to chase my dream,” Levshunov said about going the route he did.

Zeev Buium

-Buium is one of several defensemen in the conversation that could be the first one taken off the board. He was asked what it would mean to him if that happened.

“There’s a lot of great players. For me, it’s more about the team and the organization more than what number (drafted). I wanna go to a team that wants me for me and who I am as a person to play.”

-Like Levshunov, Buium was also asked how soon he feels he’d be ready for the NHL. “I like to be where my feet are. Right now, that’s Denver. But you never know what can happen with the Draft if the team really wants you to come in. For me, it’s more for discussion with whatever organization you’re drafted to.” With that said, Buium admitted he thinks he can make the transition. “Just the way I think the game and where I feel (I am) with my body right now.”

-Buium said the most common question he got from teams this week was what was the difference between his 18-year old year at the National Team and his first year at Denver. “I think for me, my confidence level and where I am as a player right now than where I even was a year ago. I’ve grown a lot and developed a lot mentally and physically. That’s the biggest thing for me and my confidence.”

Cayden Lindstrom

-As you might expect, Lindstrom’s health was a popular topic with teams. “I’m feeling great. I’m working out 5-6 times a week and skating 3-4 times a week. Everything’s going well. Feeling up pretty quickly.”

-Teams also wanted to know about Lindstrom the playmaker. He has shown he can finish. He admitted teams asked him about the other side of the offensive game. “I have full confidence in my playmaking ability. I think I’m a great playmaker.”

Zayne Parekh, Cayden Lindstrom, 2024 NHL Draft
Zayne Parekh and Cayden Lindstrom at the 2024 NHL Combine (Photo credit: Mark Scheig, The Hockey Writers)

-Lindstrom says he tries to model himself after booth Roope Hintz and Nathan MacKinnon. “I try to pick up things from their game just speed and power wise and how they create space for themselves in the corners and through the neutral zone, building speed.”

Zayne Parekh

-Parekh said that he will take part in the fitness testing on Saturday despite just finishing up the Memorial Cup. Although he hasn’t started his offseason workout routine, he’s a competitor and wants to go through the testing even though the results won’t be his best.

-Parekh said the toughest opponent he’s faced is London Knights’ Easton Cowan. “I played against Cowan a bunch. He’s one guy that drives pace for that London team. It’s always tough competing against him because he wants to win but I love the challenge. I love playing him on the multiple occasions I did.” He also said playing against Matthew Maggio in his rookie season was tough.

-Parekh said he has a lot of MacKinnon videos on his phone. “I have a ton of videos in my phone and watch his shifts on the bus after games. The way he controls the game from the backend. It’s pretty admirable, pretty impressive. He’s a bit deceptive honestly. I’ve said it all week. I’ll continue to say that guys will make guys bite and go the other way. He’s the best at it in the NHL.”

All five of these prospects are expected to speak on Saturday after their fitness testing. The other invited prospects who complete the testing will do the same. First testing goes off at 7:30 A.M. eastern with the last group going off around 1:30 P.M. eastern in 30-minute increments. Stay with the Hockey Writers for full coverage.

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