What Macklin Celebrini took away from talking with Connor McDavid

Macklin Celebrini, expected to be selected first overall by the San Jose Sharks at the NHL Draft later this month, got another chance to speak with Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid on Monday before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Florida.

Just like the circumstances surrounding Celebrini’s first meeting with McDavid, it was an eye-opening encounter.

Celebrini was around the Oilers briefly as they got ready for their near-must-win game against the Florida Panthers later that night at Amerant Arena. Edmonton lost 3-0 in Game 1 and didn’t want to fall into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series, but Celebrini was struck by just how relaxed McDavid and the team seemed to be.

“Watching the best players in the world prepare for this type of game, I felt it was just a learning experience, just kind of seeing how they approach it,” said Celebrini, who also spoke with former Sharks winger Evander Kane on Monday. “You can obviously tell that they’re pretty laid back, and they’ve done it before.”

Celebrini, who turns 18 on Thursday, first met McDavid and fellow Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl at the BioSteel Camp in Halifax, Nova Scotia last summer. Nathan MacKinnon, Patrick Kane, Jack Eichel, Cale Makar, Connor Bedard, John Tavares, and others were also at the star-studded camp.

The Vancouver-born teenager said that getting a chance to skate with those elite players was a phenomenal experience.

“High pace. I mean, it’s the best players in the world there,” Celebrini told reporters at Amerant Arena. “So that was an experience that I really enjoyed and learned from.”

Did Celebrini feel like he fit in?

“I was trying to play catch up,” Celebrini said. “I was trying to keep up with those guys. Even in a summer skate, the attention to detail they have and their approach towards getting better was impressive.”

McDavid, MacKinnon, Kane, Tavares, and Bedard, who were all selected first overall, all jumped to the NHL right after being drafted.

Celebrini has not decided whether to turn pro or return to Boston University for a sophomore season but reiterated Monday that he would be ecstatic about joining the Sharks, saying, “It’d be very cool if I get selected there. It’d be a dream come true.”

As a freshman at BU, Celebrini had 64 points in 38 games and became the youngest-ever winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s best player.

Before his draft year in 2015, McDavid, with his superb skating and playmaking ability, was arguably the most hyped prospect since Eric Lindros in 1991. In three years in the Ontario Hockey League, starting when he was 15, McDavid had 285 points in 166 games for the Erie Otters.

Celebrini was asked if he remembers or has watched how McDavid and other top prospects handled things in their draft year and what, if any, takeaways he had.

“There’s prospects every year that kind of go through the same sort of thing,” Celebrini told TSN. “I’ve been watching the draft since I was a kid and I’ve been watching guys in my position a while ago. Just watching those guys and seeing how they handle it, that’s definitely helped.”

Celebrini was in South Florida with other top projected picks, Zeev Buium, Artyom Levshunov, and Cayden Lindstrom, who were all at the NHL scouting combine in Buffalo, New York, last week. Celebrini said he was interviewed by eight teams during the event.

“They said they had fun at the combine,” McDavid said, “which we were surprised at.”

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McDavid looks every bit like a player on a deep playoff run, with longer hair, a shaggy beard, and a cut-up chin. It’s a small indication of the two-month postseason grind players endure to win the Stanley Cup.

Going into Monday, McDavid led the NHL in playoff points with 31 as he tries to help the Oilers capture their first Cup since 1990.

“You talk to everyone who’s won the Stanley Cup and even the guys who haven’t, they all say it’s the hardest trophy to win in sports,” Celebrini told TSN. “So I don’t (doubt) that it’s been a grueling time. They’ve played over 100 games already. But it was cool to talk to him and just kind of see how he’s how he’s handling all that.”

McDavid didn’t have much advice for Celebrini other than saying, “It doesn’t really matter where you’re drafted. That’s kind of just the start.”

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