Ducks hoping to celebrate Celebrini after NHL draft lottery

Anaheim's 11.5% chance to win top overall pick could mitigate frustration of losing out on Crosby, Bedard.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have a difficult relationship with ping pong balls.

On July 22, 2005, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim entered the draft lottery with two ping pong balls in the hopper and a strong chance to win the right to draft a promising rookie forward named Sidney Crosby. Instead, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the lottery and selected Crosby, who has since led them to Stanley Cup championships in 2009, 2016, and 2017. Anaheim settled for the second pick, which they used to select Bobby Ryan, who still ranks eighth all time in Ducks history with 147 goals.

Last season, the Ducks had the highest possible odds of winning the draft lottery and selecting Connor Bedard, a so-called “generational”, goal-scoring forward in the mold of Crosby. But Anaheim again failed to win the top pick. They finished second again, drafting Leo Carlsson (12-17-29 as a rookie)—a more-than-acceptable consolation prize.

Tuesday night, the 2024 NHL draft lottery will be broadcast on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. PST, and again Anaheim is in position to earn the first overall pick. Officially, the Ducks hold the third-highest odds of winning the lottery, behind only the two teams who finished last season with a record worse than Anaheim’s: the San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.

Again this season, there is a consensus top player available: Boston University forward Macklin Celebrini, who won the Hobey Baker award as a freshman (youngest player ever to win it) this season and led the Terriers to the Frozen Four. The 5-11, 180-pounder doesn’t turn 18 until mid-June, but his youth belies an elite skill set. Celebrini scored 32-32-64 for BU, and the Anaheim Ducks could certainly be bolstered by that sort of production, particularly in light of the team’s struggle to score goals in 2023-24.

But Celebrini is a left-handed shot, and Anaheim’s stated offseason shopping list requires acquisition of a right-handed shooter and/or defenseman. It’s not as though the Ducks would simply pass on Celebrini were they fortunate enough to earn the top pick, but an argument can be made that the right-handers available in the second tier of draft-eligible players might be more natural fits in the Ducks lineup. They include the following:

Artyom Levshunov—the right-handed Belarussian defenseman is a freshman at Michigan State. His scored nine goals and dished 26 assists this season, and was a +27 overall. Levshunov is six-foot-two and 210 pounds.

Zayne Parekh—another right-shot defenseman, Parekh (six feet even, 181 pound) has risen up draft boards recently. The Saginaw Spirit star possesses a strong scoring touch, posting 33 goals and 63 assists in the Ontario Hockey League this year.

Sam Dickinson—a towering six-foot-three, 194-pound, right-shot defenseman from the OHL’s London Knights, Dickinson scored 18-52-70 this season as a 17-year-old.

On the offensive side, should Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek wish to fortify his forward group with another goal-scorer, there are a few potential options in the top five:

Ivan Demidov—The five-foot-11 Russian forward is an offensive dynamo who is widely regarded as the second-strongest forward the 2024 draft, behind Celebrini. Some of the puck-handling and changes of direction shown in the highlight video below are remarkable.

The Sporting Tribune will provide complete coverage of Tuesday’s NHL Draft Lottery and the Anaheim Ducks’ run-up to the 2024 NHL Draft on June 28 in Las Vegas. For up-to-the-minute updates, follow on @DannyEvansTST.