Sharks are the toast of Vegas on Day 1 of NHL Draft

Sharks are the toast of Vegas on Day 1 of NHL Draft

LAS VEGAS — The San Jose Sharks made history on a scorching Friday afternoon in Sin City.

For the first time in franchise history, the Sharks had the number one overall pick in the NHL Draft. To no one's surprise, they selected Boston University's Macklin Celebrini with that pick, sending the packed Sphere into a roaring ovation as the 18-year-old forward walked up after being announced by former Sharks legend Joe Thornton. Celebrini was greeted on stage by general manager Mike Grier, recently hired head coach Ryan Warsofsky, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Everyone knew from the start of the 2023-24 season that Celebrini was going to be the consensus number one pick on June 28, 2024. But no one knew who would end up with the freshman phenom until the draft lottery was announced on May 7. On that fateful Tuesday, after a challenging season where the San Jose Sharks finished with their worst record since the 1992-93 campaign, the hockey gods finally smiled upon Team Teal, granting them the first pick in the lottery and the right to select Celebrini.

Since then, all the rot and despair have been replaced with hope and the promise of a Sharks' resurgence. In 2023, Grier drafted Will Smith and Quentin Musty with the fourth and 26th picks in the NHL Draft, offering a glimmer of hope. On Friday evening, that glimmer became a beacon of light visible at the end of the tunnel for fans.

The night before the draft, the Sharks traded the 14th overall pick and the 42nd pick to the Buffalo Sabres to move up three spots to number 11. Consequently, there was much speculation about whom the Sharks would choose just ten picks later. They ultimately selected defenseman Sam Dickinson from the OHL's London Knights. Dickinson tallied 70 points for the Knights last season, including 18 goals. The 6'3", 203-pound native of Toronto, Canada, aims to provide the Sharks with an offensive scoring defenseman akin to what Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson once did for San Jose.

Fifteen minutes after donning his Sharks sweater on stage, Celebrini met with the media and savored every moment under the bright lights as the number one overall draft pick.

"Once it's official, it's a pretty amazing feeling," Celebrini said of the moment his name was called amid all the speculation. "I mean, it's been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid. I'm so excited to join this organization."

When asked about being part of a young, talented core that could revitalize the franchise after five challenging years, the former Junior Shark expressed confidence in the Sharks' management to make the right decisions.

"It's very cool. I feel like there's a lot of trust in the management and the coaching staff right now. They were that they're building (the team) and the moves that they are making, I feel like any organization, they're trying to build the best team possible to get to that the point. And I don't have faith in anyone else," Celebrini said with a smile.

After moving up to the 11th spot the day before, the management team led by Grier decided to take the best available player in Dickinson. The young defenseman, who has yet to set foot in California, expressed excitement about joining a youthful core that now has the opportunity to accomplish what legends like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski couldn't—bring the Stanley Cup to San Jose.

"Growing up and seeing the San Jose Sharks teams that were so good with those players that you mentioned, you know to potentially be a part of the next wave of those other guys that you mentioned is again such an unbelievable feeling. Again, just pure excitement," Dickinson shared.

A strong contingent of Sharks fans filled the sold-out SAP Center, cheering loudly when the Sharks' turn came up at the start of the draft and again just before the 11th pick. With the SAP Center hosting a sold-out draft party, Sharks fans have much to be excited about after a long wait since the team's exit from the 2019 Western Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues.

With players like Smith, Musty, Filip Bysted, and Luca Cagnoli complementing Friday's draft picks, Sharks fans won't have to wait much longer for the team to contend for its first Stanley Cup once again. It's only a matter of time and a bit more patience.

But for one night in the scorching heat of the desert, the San Jose Sharks were the toast of Las Vegas.

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