Parekh draft bug

The 2024 NHL Draft kicks off next Friday, with the Blue Jackets holding the No. 4 overall pick in what could be one of the more interesting drafts in recent years.

Canadian center Macklin Celebrini is all but guaranteed to go No. 1 overall to San Jose, but things are wide open after that. There isn’t much of a consensus in the scouting community on who will go next, with a plethora of two-way centers (Cayden Lindstrom, Konsta Helenius, Berkly Catton, Tij Iginla), productive wingers (Ivan Demidov, Cole Eiserman, Beckett Sennecke) and dominant defensemen (Artyom Levshunov, Zeem Buium, Zayne Parekh, Anton Silayev, Sam Dickinson) all in the mix to go just about anywhere in the top 10.

MORE: Draft consensus poll | CBJ draft hub

Our annual consensus poll detailed what the options are, but as the draft nears, we’re taking a closer look at some of the top players available. The next two weeks, we’ll count down from No. 9 in our consensus poll ranking to No. 2. 

The profiles continue today with eighth-ranked Zayne Parekh, a high-scoring defenseman who had a championship campaign with Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League.

We’ll list Parekh’s vitals, his accomplishments in his career to this point, share a couple quotes from the player himself at the NHL Scouting Combine and conclude with expert opinions on the standout. 

Zayne Parekh: The Vitals 

Position: Right-shot defenseman

Age: 18 (Born Feb. 15, 2006) 

Height/Weight: 6-0¼, 178

Hometown: Nobleton, Ontario

The Accomplishments

  • Led all OHL defensemen in goals (33) and points (96) on the season in 66 games while going plus-39 during the 2023-24 season.
  • His production (1.45 points per game) this year ranks third in OHL history for a draft-eligible defenseman.
  • Had a five-point game, three four-point games and eight three-point games this season with the Spirit. In all, he had 28 multipoint games in 66 OHL contests, as well as a pair of hat tricks.
  • Added a 2-9-11 line in 13 OHL playoff games, then a goal and four assists in five games as Saginaw captured the Memorial Cup.
  • Broke the OHL Under-17 record for goals in a season, posting a 21-16-37 line in 50 games during the 2022-23 season.
  • Played on Team Canada at both the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2022-23 (3-2-5 in seven games) as well as the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (0-3-3 in five games).
  • Is the No. 5-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

What’s Next

NHL projection: In an era in which defensemen are activated to create offense more than ever before, Parekh is perfectly suited to take advantage of that trend and could be a high-scoring first-pair defender on an NHL blue line.

Why CBJ should draft him: While there are a number of highly skilled blueliners available in this draft, no one else can quite match Parekh’s goal-scoring abilities. He could be a Cale Makar-type defenseman when it comes to production, someone who produced a ton of offense at both 5-on-5 and the power play.

Why they should not: Like any young defenseman, Parekh has a lot of work to do in the defensive zone, and things he was able to do at the OHL level won’t be quite as easy at the pro level. There might be safer blue line prospects at the top of the board in a defense-heavy draft.

In Parekh’s Words

"Weird answer, but Steven Stamkos was my favorite player growing up. I’ve worn 91 my whole life until minor midget. He was my favorite player. He’s a Markham boy, so it’s tough not to root for him. I like to watch a lot of Makar, (Adam) Fox, (Quinn) Hughes and (Erik) Karlsson, too. They’re all so good at what they do, and I think I fit in that mold of defenseman. I like to skate with the puck, I like to hold on to pucks, so I try to take little bits and pieces from their games and add them to mine.

“It’s the new age of the game. You need your defensemen to contribute offensively, and you need them to make plays on retrievals and exits. It’s the new age of defensemen. It’s not really that you’re drafting kids just for height or you’re drafting them for how strong they are. It’s a new age in the era of hockey, and it suits me well.

“I think my game is pretty transferrable. I don’t think I’m down at the netfront ever as a defenseman. I like to make plays from the blue line, and that’s how I go about things. I’m not stick slipping or going through guys’ triangles. I’m skating pucks up the ice and trying to create for myself in terms of cutbacks or in that sense. I know some teams play a simpler style of the game, but it’s not really going to change what I want to do with the puck or how creative I am.”

The Experts Say

Looking around the Internet, prospect experts have given their take on Parekh’s game. Here’s what a few of them have to say.

Chris Peters, FloHockey: What makes Parekh impressive is how he was able to produce points as a play-driving defenseman with an expert ability to get shots through, jump into plays and create the best opportunities for himself and his teammates. His offensive instincts are a cut above any defenseman in this class and his goal-scoring abilities is another separating trait. Defensively there is plenty of work to be done, but odds are his team is going to have the puck a lot more than they don’t when he is on the ice. Parekh surveys the ice at a high level, has elite vision and executes especially well for a defenseman.

Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News: Parekh is manipulative with the puck on his stick and always looks to attack offensively. His ability to slip a check or deke an opponent in space is certainly entertaining. When he is in the offensive zone, Parekh is a slick playmaker who can make passes through the layers of the defense. His shot is a legitimate weapon from all over the offensive zone, and he does an excellent job of creeping down to the hash marks. ... He is one of the most divisive players in the draft class because he has scored the lights out at the OHL level, and there are some glaring weaknesses in his game that aren’t exposed in major junior.

Jordan Harris, Dobber Prospects: Parekh’s game is built on dynamism and deception. He can manipulate opposing players with his eyes, his hands, and head/shoulder fakes, to create separation for himself. The passes Parekh attempts make you cringe right up until the puck lands perfectly on his teammate’s stick. From the offensive blueline in, there aren’t many players better than Parekh. ... If Parekh can iron out some of the issues in his game and play with the urgency he showed when the games mattered most this past season, then we’re looking at a potential 70+ point defenseman in the future.

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