Macklin Celebrini

Grier explains Sharks' full-circle Celebrini-Thornton moment

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The Sharks and their fans witnessed a special full-circle moment during Friday’s 2024 NHL Draft.

Longtime San Jose star Joe Thornton called Macklin Celebrini’s name as the Sharks’ No. 1 overall pick, symbolizing a passing of the torch at the center position for the franchise aiming to return to glory.

After Thornton and Celebrini embraced on stage at Sphere in Las Vegas following the 18-year-old’s official welcome to San Jose, general manager Mike Grier discussed the pair's unique connection when talking to NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil.

“It does [make sense], for sure,” Grier told Brazil. “I think it’s a nice connection to the past. Not only them both being [No. 1 overall] picks, but from the Sharks [perspective], what was a No. 1 center here for so long to hopefully what will be our No. 1 center for many years to come.”

Celebrini became the Shark’s first No. 1 overall pick in franchise history, and he is expected to be the cornerstone at center. Thornton was in a similar position at the beginning of his long NHL career and he, too, eventually had cornerstone expectations as San Jose's center.

Thornton, Grier’s Sharks teammate between the 2006-07 and 2008-09 seasons, was selected No. 1 overall by the Boston Bruins in 1997. He would be traded to San Jose during the 2005-06 season, where he ultimately would earn the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, three NHL All-Star nods and 1,055 points in 15 seasons with the Sharks.

Grier is well aware that Celebrini and Thornton know what it’s like to shoulder high expectations in San Jose. And while one player is beginning his presumably long, storied career and the other is enjoying retirement, Grier is glad that Thornton remains around the team -- especially now with Celebrini -- granted the old Shark’s era of booming play is in the rearview.

“We’ve had times where there’s not too many guys left. We got [Marc-Édouard Vlasic] and [Logan Couture], but there are not too many guys left from those glory days,” Gier added. "To have Jumbo here and kind of make that connection with Macklin is pretty cool.”

Friday was just the beginning of the Celebrini era in San Jose.

Grier appreciates Thornton being a part of the moment with the rookie and is excited for what’s to come.

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