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Ten 2024 NHL Draft-Eligible Prospects to Watch

With the U-17 tournament going on in British Columbia, Ian Kennedy looks at players to follow for the next year-and-a-half before the 2024 NHL draft.
Berkly Catton

Berkly Catton is one of the key 2024 NHL draft-eligible prospects to watch in the WHL.

All eyes are on Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli for 2023, but scouts are already working to identify the top talents for the 2024 NHL draft.

There is much to be excited about in the draft class, including a potential top defense prospect in Finland’s Aron Kiviharju. Watching him compete at the U-18 World Championship, you would think Kiviharju was a first-round prospect for the already completed 2022 draft, not two years away from his 2024 eligibility.

Beyond Kiviharju, early excitement up front points toward Canadian Macklin Celebrini and American Cole Eiserman battling it out for the top forward spot. After this trio, many names will generate interest as this season progresses. While it's too soon to try a top 10 list, here are 10 prospects worth following, as well as names to watch this year for the 2024 NHL draft.

Aron Kiviharju, D, TPS (Liiga/U-20): As a 16-year-old, Kiviharju is already seeing games with TPS in Liiga, a year after excelling in Finland’s U-20 level. His 30 points last season were the most ever by a 15-year-old defender and trailed only one player in history, forward Patrik Laine. He also put up a point per game at the U-18 World Championship showcasing his mobility, and incredible on-ice awareness. When his physical maturity matches his mental capabilities, Kiviharju has the potential to be one of the best two-way defenders in the world at any age.

Macklin Celebrini, F, Chicago (USHL): Often considered North America’s top prospect in the 2006 birth year, Celebrini is dismantling the USHL as a 16-year-old. His release is an elite asset, and his ability to break from defenders and create space using his speed in crossovers is reminiscent of the most electric forwards in the game. Last season, he had 117 points in 52 games for Shattuck St. Mary’s U-18, a program that has graduated the likes of Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise. Celebrini is committed to Boston University for 2025-26. As a Vancouver-born forward, his path to the USHL and then NCAA follows Adam Fantilli, expected to be a top-five pick in this year’s NHL draft.

Cole Eiserman, F, USA Hockey National Team Development Program U-17: Another Shattuck St. Mary’s product, Eiserman is currently scoring more than two points per game with the NTDP Juniors team in the USHL, seeing time with Team USA’s U-17 and U-18 programs. His 13 points in five games rank him second in scoring at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge heading into Thursday's games. Sometimes described as a pure goal scorer, Eiserman has quick hands and a powerful shot. He’s committed to playing for the University of Minnesota and will continue to battle with Celebrini for the title of top forward prospect for 2024.

Ivan Demidov, F, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg Jr., MHL: Not to be confused with the professional poker player of the same name, the hockey-playing Demidov has a few tricks up his own sleeve. A late 2005 birth year, Demidov is a strong skater and has been a force in the MHL thus far, scoring more than 1.4 points per game, leading the league in scoring. It’s a feat considering many of the players following him in the scoring leaders are notable prospects for the 2023 draft or 19- and 20-year-old players. He’s no Matvei Michkov, considered the top Russian prospect for the 2023 NHL draft, but he has top 10 written all over his game, and could easily play his way into the conversation as a top-five pick.

Berkly Catton, F, Spokane Chiefs: The first overall pick in the 2021 WHL U-15 draft, Catton has not missed a beat in the WHL. He’s the third top-scoring 2006-born player in the CHL to open the year despite playing in the U-17 challenge, which will only continue to boost his draft status. A dynamic forward, Catton shows a willingness to go into traffic and has the vision to find seams as a playmaker. Watching Catton’s offensive totals continue to climb over the next year should only solidify his draft position.

Tanner Howe, F, Regina Pats: Gifted offensively, Howe can do it all. He finds seams as an adept passer and can unleash his quick and deceptive shot. For his size, 5-foot-9, Howe also does not shy away from physical play – he often initiates puck battles. As the top scoring 2024 NHL draft-eligible player in the CHL, Howe has already represented Canada at the U-18 World Championship and Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He’s a first-round talent, who after scoring more than a point per game flanking Connor Bedard last year, should be scorching the WHL by the time his draft day comes along.

Clarke Caswell, F, Swift Current Broncos (WHL): A good skater who is equal parts scoring threat and playmaker, Caswell was the top-scoring 2006-born player coming out of Manitoba last year. Caswell has a high competitive level and has spoken openly about his determination to gain strength through his off-ice training. Not on the same level as the top few forwards in this group, yet, he’s still a prospect trending up.

Eemil Vinni, G, HIFK (U-20, Liiga): There is no guarantee Vinni goes in the first round, but his trajectory is looking closer to being a first-round pick following a breakout performance at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer where Vinni backstopped Finland to a third-place finish. At the tournament, he posted a 1.75 GAA and .927 save percentage in four games. His six-foot-two frame is already NHL-sized, and he has the tools to follow in the footsteps of a player like Jesper Wallstedt who was a first-round pick and fast-tracked to the AHL.

Jakub Chromiak, D, Sudbury (OHL): His mobility is noticeable on both sides of the puck, enabling a swift transition and smooth exits from his own zone. Chromiak’s North American start hasn’t gone as dreamed this year after opening his season with HK Dukla Trencin in Slovakia’s top professional league. He committed to Sudbury in October, but the Wolves' struggles and lack of depth have forced Chromiak to defend without many opportunities to develop his offensive game. Slovakia’s captain at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Chromiak will remain a prospect to watch and has time to continue to round out his game.

Michael Hage, F, Chicago (USHL): The anticipation of Michael Hage making his USHL debut is building after the team announced he’d be on injured reserve more than a month ago. Originally drafted by Kitchener in the OHL, Hage has since been traded to Sudbury, showing perhaps there is more going on behind the scenes than originally anticipated, and without an NCAA commitment, nothing is saying Hage doesn’t end up in the OHL. It’s a lot of uncertainty for a talented 16-year-old who scored 46 goals in the GTHL last year. He’s an intriguing talent, but until he steps foot into a junior league and lives up to that potential, his NHL draft ceiling will remain a question mark.

Defensive Prospects: Many defenders are emerging as potential first-round talents, whether it’s OHLers Sam Dickinson, Matthew Virgilio and Henry Mews, Belarusian

Artyom Levshunov who is playing in the USHL, USA defender William Skahan, or intriguing Europeans Paul Mayer and Dominik Badinka. Dickinson and Mews are in spectacular developmental programs in London and Ottawa, respectively, as is Skahan in the NTDP who will play for the University of Wisconsin.

Forward Prospects: Overseas, Emil Hemming, Adam Jecho, Alexander Zetterberg, Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, Konsta Helenius and Melvin Fernstrom are putting up numbers and showing traits that would put them into opening round conversations moving forward. In North America, NTDP forward Christian Humphreys, and CHLers Andrew Basha, Ryder Ritchie, Justin Poirier, Beckett Sennecke, and Maxim Masse are all producing at nearly a point per game.

Goaltending Prospects: Beyond Vinni, the goaltending situation is still developing. Some early names to watch include Sweden’s Eric Olsson, as well as North American netminders Nicholas Kempf, John Parsons, Zach Pelletier, Ryerson Leenders, Madden Mulawka, Chase Wutzke, and David Egorov.

Other Prospects To Watch: Cole Hutson, Jamiro Reber, Edwin Tropmann, Karl Sterner, Charlie Elick, Brayden Dube, Johannes Sideback, Elias Knoester, Elliot Sigrell, Carson Wetsch, Simon Zether, Tobias Ohman, Izayah Luddington, Javon Moore, John Whipple, Brodie Ziemer, Aidan Park, Artemi Nizameev, Alexander Shen, Yegor Surin.

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