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Celebrini explains attendance at Oilers-Canucks NHL playoff game

Celebrini explains attendance at Oilers-Canucks NHL playoff game originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Editor's Note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California’s Sharks coverage. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Macklin Celebrini’s first NHL appearance as a member of the Sharks will also be the first time that he’s ever been at a San Jose game.

That might be surprising, considering that Celebrini played a season with the Jr. Sharks in 2019-20.

“I never really had time to head out to any,” Celebrini told San Jose Hockey Now in a one-on-one interview at the 2024 NHL Draft Combine.

Celebrini’s going to have a lot of time to attend Sharks games, after San Jose makes him the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft on June 28 in Las Vegas.

The Combine is the beginning of that relationship with the Sharks. Celebrini said that he had dinner with general manager Mike Grier and Co. at local favorite Buffalo Chophouse, having chicken.

“I think that's where every dinner is,” Celebrini laughed. He said it was a good time, a lot of jokes tossed around.

Celebrini has also been in touch recently with Will Smith, the Sharks’ No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 draft, who recently announced that he’s going pro. While Celebrini never has played with Smith, they’ve played against each other for years, in various levels from the USHL to NCAA.

“He completes the plays that you don't think he'll complete,” Celebrini said. “We kind of text back and forth a little bit.”

So Celebrini, even if he won’t publicly admit that he’s going to be Shark, knows he’s going to San Jose.

He knows that come Jun. 28, he doesn’t get to be a Vancouver Canucks fan anymore … at least not as much so.

Celebrini grew up in Vancouver, and was a big Ryan Kesler fan growing up, even getting his go-to No. 17 from the model two-way center, who played with the Canucks and Anaheim Ducks from 2003 to 2019.

“I think the year I started to love him was in his breakout year,” Celebrini said of Kesler’s 41-goal Selke Trophy-winning campaign in 2010-11. “He was playing amazing, he was pretty much leading the Canucks with the Sedins with his play. I remember going to a Canucks game, seeing him, and he scored like two goals. I just loved him from that point in.”

Did Celebrini, regarded as a picture-perfect two-way center in his own right, model his game after the edgy Kesler?

“For sure,” he said, “[But] I watched him more as a fan, less to learn.”

All this helped cement Celebrini’s Canucks’ fandom, which culminated in Celebrini attending Game 7 of the Canucks' Western Conference semifinal series against the Edmonton Oilers with his older brother Aiden in May.

That’s the last time that he’s going to cheer for the Canucks, right?

“Yeah, probably,” he laughed. “I'm not with any NHL club right now. I took that opportunity to support a team that made a deep run.”

Of course, defenseman Aiden Celebrini was also selected in the sixth round of the 2023 Draft…by Vancouver.

“I guess I'll stay a Canucks fan just a little bit just because of my brother,” he laughed. “I think that's allowed.”

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