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Sharks top prospect Smith describes Celebrini as ‘special player'

Sharks top prospect Will Smith has seen plenty of Macklin Celebrini — the standout prospect San Jose is expected to select No. 1 overall in the 2024 NHL Draft — after the pair battled on the ice a few times during the 2023-24 NCAA Men’s Hockey season.

In speaking to NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers at the 2024 IIHF World Championship, Smith offered immense praise for for the presumed No. 1 pick after his Boston College Eagles faced Celebrini’s Boston University Terriers four times last season.

“We’ve had some matchups this year,” Smith told Vickers. “I think four times. We’ve definitely seen each other. There’s a reason he’s going to go No. 1. He’s a pretty special player. Obviously, we had some pretty good matchups this year.”

Smith, who was selected No. 4 overall by the Sharks in the 2023 NHL Draft, detailed the importance of staying vigilant while Celebrini is on the ice, highlighting the epic matchups the two had in college.

“Whenever you’re on the ice with another player like that you have to keep your eye on him,” Smith explained to Vickers. “We were on the ice quite a few times, some shifts together. Definitely we were keeping our eye on each other.”

Smith’s Boston College defeated Boston University in three of the four matchups, although each player had considerable individual success despite the lopsided team results.

In the second meeting of the season, Smith and Celebrini each netted a goal apiece in Boston College’s 4-3 win on Jan. 27. Celebrini got his revenge on Feb. 5 with two goals in the Terrier’s 4-3 win over Boston College.

Smith got the last laugh however, netting four goals and adding in assist in Boston College’s 6-2 win over Celebrini’s squad in the Hockey East Championship. Celebrini added a goal of his own to make it 5-2 in the third period, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the incredible showing by Smith.

Celebrini finished with four goals in the matchups against Boston College, while Smith finished with five goals and four assists in those games.

The exciting talent Smith and Celebrini possess invites incredible optimism when speculating on San Jose’s future after the Sharks finished the 2023-24 NHL season with the fewest points in the league, marking their fifth consecutive campaign without a Stanley Cup playoff berth.

Smith detailed his excitment about San Jose possessing the No. 1 overall pick in this draft and how he looks forward to returning the Sharks to NHL prominence.

“It’s cool,” Smith told Vickers. “Obviously the future there is going to be pretty exciting and fun. Having the first overall pick is pretty cool. Get to go on there and have a bunch of young guys, which will be fun. I can’t wait to get there.

“It’s exciting seeing that lottery. San Jose hasn’t been a playoff team for a while now. We’ll try to bring that back.”

With San Jose in position to select Celebrini when the NHL draft kicks off on June 28, Smith and Celebrini potentially can look forward to their relationship evolving from competitors to teammates, while also giving Northern California hockey fans the ability to day dream of what awaits while the Sharks continue to rebuild.

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