Aiden Celebrini’s personal growth and camaraderie on the road to success

Photo credit:Vancouver Canucks
Dave Hall
5 days ago
Just days before attending his second NHL development camp, Aiden Celebrini was in Las Vegas, soaking in the special moment among family as his brother Macklin walked the podium to be selected first overall by the San Jose Sharks.
It was a moment of pride and reflection for Aiden, who had heard his own name called in the sixth round just a year ago.
Now, it’s back to business as usual, as he travelled back to his hometown of Vancouver, BC, to report to camp.
With one under his belt to compare, Celebrini was impressed with the smaller, more hands-on approach to this year’s camp. “Yeah, 100 percent. The personal touch you get with a smaller group. I mean, you get that personal connection with coaches too where they can really tweak your game, and tweak what you need to work on. It’s just so much more valuable getting that player-specific relationship. Yeah, it was really well executed, and I couldn’t be happier about the takeaways this week.”
Celebrini is coming off his freshman year at Boston University, where he spent most of his time as the team’s sixth-to-seventh defender. Rather than take that limited role as a negative, the Vancouver native has focused on using that as motivation to continue working on his game. “Obviously, having such a strong d-core last year, it was a real learning year for me. It was a year I took to develop and work on my personal game so that when I do get the opportunity, I am ready to take it.”
Transitioning to the NCAA level is no easy feat, especially when aiming to beat the odds as a sixth-rounder aspiring for an NHL career.
Fortunately, Aiden is not alone in his journey toward becoming a future Vancouver Canuck. Last year, the organization drafted two BU-bound prospects, which included first-round talent Tom Willander.
Aiden and Tom have grown very close since that day, spending time together on and off the ice in Boston. “We’re very close friends,” Aiden shared. “It’s awesome to have him along this process with me because we make each other better. The amount of times we’ve skated just the two of us on our home rink, Agganis [Arena], or texted each other with advice. He’s been a great support system for me through those challenging times for me last year.”
As Canuck-drafted defenders skating among the same core, the two have developed a friendly rivalry. “Before every game, we kind of made it a habit to do the circle drill, where you try to poke the other guy’s puck out of the circle, and it almost turns into a wrestling match. So, yeah, we’ll always find stuff to compete with and have fun with.”
Even in development camp, their competitive spirit naturally came out. “Even in testing yesterday, it almost came to blows, because we were tied for the pull-ups, and he’s convinced that he beat me, but he didn’t. So, yeah, we were both so competitive. That’s what makes each other better, and that’s why we love each other.”
As for Willander, he stands by his claim of victory in their pull-up challenge: “He did not. Just making sure everyone understands, I definitely won the pull-up competition. It’s not even a question about it. I don’t know what everyone else got. I just know I got one more than Aiden. So that’s all I got to say about that.”
Beyond their friendly banter, Willander recognizes the importance of their bond and the support they provide each other. “I tried to be there for him a lot throughout the season. I think we’re close friends, and I think that’s the responsibility you have as a good teammate and as a close friend to just kind of be there for them. It’s tough to get ice time and get the coach to like you, so it’s important to be there for him.”
As both players head back for their sophomore years, expectations are that both will enjoy elevated roles.
For Celebrini, he plans on keeping things simple and focusing on maximizing his summer training to give himself the best edge in September. “Right now, my focus is on doing as much as I can this summer. Squeezing the lemon training-wise and really giving myself the best opportunity to come in and earn a spot to help us get back to that Frozen Four and hopefully win a National Championship.”
Of course, with elevated roles come elevated expectations. With just one goal and six points across 36 games last season, Celebrini has a direct focus on broadening his game and adding another element to his skill set. “My calling card’s my defence. It made my identity in my draft year. But I’m trying to develop that two-way game. I feel like I have a lot of offensive potential and I want to impact the game however way I can. I don’t want to limit myself to a role. So, it’s just kind of working on everything. Just trying to be that well-rounded defenceman that are so impactful in the NHL.”
The Boston Terrier hockey schedule is set to kick off on October 5th, 2024, with a match against Holy Cross, who they have not seen since an exhibition match in October of the 2021-22 campaign.
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