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NHL poster boy McDavid meets with top prospect, B.C.’s Celebrini

Expected top pick for coming NHL draft appreciated chance to chat with the 3-time league MVP
Macklin Celebrini, the expected No. 1 pick in the NHL draft to the San Jose Sharks, speaks with reporters prior to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Stephen Whyno)

Nine years after meeting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews during the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago, Connor McDavid got to pay it forward Monday in his first appearance in the series.

McDavid visited with Macklin Celebrini, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2024 NHL draft, and other top prospects after the Edmonton Oilers’ morning skate in preparation for Game 2 against the Florida Panthers.

“Seem like some great kids,” McDavid said. “They said they had fun at the combine, which we were surprised at. But yeah, it’s an exciting time for them.”

McDavid and Celebrini met before, at a summer hockey camp last year and at a game in Edmonton. Celebrini, the Vancouver native, was in attendance for the Oilers’ Game 7 victory against his hometown Canucks earlier in the playoffs.

Hoping McDavid didn’t see him cheering against him that night, Celebrini appreciated another chance to chat with the three-time league MVP, whose position he’d love to be in someday.

“It was awesome to talk to him, especially on a big gameday,” said Celebrini, who figures to have his name called by the San Jose Sharks to kick off the draft at the Sphere in Las Vegas on June 28. “Hopefully in the future I’m playing in the Stanley Cup Final, so I really hope so.”

Celebrini was joined by Cayden Lindstrom, Artyom Levshunov and Zeev Buium, who are also expected to be taken among the first several picks. As for advice, McDavid — taken first by the Oilers in the 2015 draft coincidentally held at the Panthers’ arena — kept it simple.

“It doesn’t really matter where you’re picked,” he said. “Those kids will all be in the top five. But it doesn’t really matter where you’re drafted. That’s just the start.

Oilers changes

Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch expected to tinker with his lineup throughout the Cup final. His big change for Game 2 was the bold move of scratching defenseman Cody Ceci, who was on the ice and most culpable for Florida’s two goals scored on Stuart Skinner in the series opener.

“It’s not easy,” Knoblauch said. “You have a player that’s been a big part of our team and has played very well, and we’ve had those difficult decisions with other players throughout the playoffs. We’re in it for the best for our team, and we feel that this is something that’s going to help our team.”

Vincent Desharnais took Ceci’s spot Monday and played well in his nearly 16 minutes of ice time in Edmonton’s 4-1 defeat.

“Vinny has played very well for us this year, whether it’s been through the playoffs or regular season,” Knoblauch said. “We have a lot of confidence in him. He can move the puck out, he’s a big defender. We’ve inserted some new bodies, new life into lineup throughout the playoffs and it’s paid off.”

Corey Perry was also scratched, with Sam Carrick making his series debut.

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