240610 Celebrini [1296x729]
240610 Celebrini [1296x729] (Credit: AP Photo/Stephen Whyno)

Panthers now 2 wins from the Stanley Cup top Oilers 4-1 for 2-0 lead in title series

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Connor McDavid remembers when he was Macklin Celebrini.

Before McDavid was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015, he was given a tour of the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 3 between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. He met Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and glimpsed what their processes were like during a championship series.

"It was really cool just getting a chance to meet some of those guys," McDavid said.

On Monday, McDavid and the Oilers chatted with Celebrini, who is expected to be the top pick in the 2024 NHL draft, and other prospects after the morning skate prior to Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN+).

"Seemed like some great kids," McDavid said. "They said they had fun in the combine, which we were surprised at."

Celebrini had previously met McDavid at a BioSteel camp in Halifax but was happy to get more time with him Monday.

"He was just asking about the trip, how it's going," Celebrini said. "It was awesome to talk to him, especially on a big game day, so we all really appreciated it."

He said he was also relieved McDavid didn't bring up the fact that Celebrini, a Vancouver native, was cheering on the Canucks against the Oilers at Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

"No, he didn't. I don't know if he saw that, luckily," said Celebrini, laughing.

The NHL draft is scheduled to begin June 28 at the Sphere in Las Vegas (ESPN/ESPN+). The San Jose Sharks own the No. 1 pick and were one of eight teams that Celebrini met with at the recent draft combine.

Celebrini has ties to the Bay Area. He is the son of Rick Celebrini, the Golden State Warriors' director of sports medicine and performance. Macklin lived in the San Jose area and played for the San Jose Junior Sharks 14U AAA team.

"It'd be very cool if I get selected there," said Celebrini, adding that he hasn't talked about his NHL plans with Sharks general manager Mike Grier. "I mean, it'd be a dream come true.

"Of course, I'm nervous. I'm excited. I have different emotions about it. People say enjoy it -- that it only happens once in your life -- so I'm really going to try to do that."

The Boston University star center, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA's top men's hockey player as a freshman, said he's "still unsure on where I'm going to be next year" when it comes to playing in the NHL or back in college.

While San Jose is deep into a rebuild, they will have a growing collection of young talent on next year's team. Will Smith, a Boston College forward drafted fourth in 2023, recently signed an entry level deal with San Jose.

Celebrini said he'll spend the next few weeks before the draft training and spending time with friends and family. He's made the most of his experience at the Stanley Cup Final, having observed everything from practices to media interviews. At one point, Celebrini commandeered the podium in an empty interview room to hold a "news conference," with the other draft prospects standing in for the media.

"Just wanted to see if they had any questions," he said with a laugh.

Mostly, Celebrini was happy to take some notes on the pros.

"I just like watching how the best players in the world prepare for these games, especially since the Stanley Cup Final is as big as it gets," Celebrini said. "It's just a learning experience, just kind of seeing how they approach it. I mean, you can obviously tell that they're pretty laid back and they've done it before."

One day, Celebrini wants to be where McDavid is right now -- and not only offering sage advice to the next generation.

"I mean, hopefully in the future I'm playing the Stanley Cup Final," he said. "I really hope so."