Playoff hockey is all about seizing the moment.

‘One shot.’

And ‘one opportunity,’ Eminem stressed.

So, when a second chance – a renewed lease on life – falls into your lap like this, Zayne Parekh and the Saginaw Spirit have no intention of letting it slip.

“We get another crack at this, right?” Parekh – the fifth-ranked North American skater – said following his team’s practice ahead of the 2024 Memorial Cup, where the Spirit will compete as the tournament host.

“I don't think it's necessarily a 'revenge' thing, but we definitely want to do the best we can and win for the guys in this room.”

Three weeks ago, Saginaw bowed out to the eventual OHL champion London Knights, and were the only team to hand the Knights a loss after a hard-fought, six-game scuffle in Round 3.

Indeed, London was a powerhouse, easily dispatching the Flint Firebirds and Kitchener Rangers in Rounds 1 and 2, before grabbing their third and most important sweep of the playoffs in the championship final against the Oshawa Generals.

Overcoming that dominance – along with the two other league champs, the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) and Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) – is no easy task.

But Parekh and the Spirit have literally spent the past few weeks training for it.


“You drive around town and you can see all the banners and everything hanging up, so there’s definitely that excitement building,” he said. “The rink looks away different compared to earlier in the year – it actually looks pretty sick. You definitely feel the buzz. A lot of people have wished us good luck when we're out and around town, so it's awesome to have all the fans and the community behind us.”

The Spirit will have to wait until the final game of the round robin on May 29 before they’ll face off in that pivotal rematch with the Knights, but by then, Parekh will have already captured the attention – and imagination – of the entire country.

That, you can count on.

Parekh had a season for the ages, recording the kind elite offensive numbers that makes him one of the most intriguing draft-eligible defensive prospects in years.

The Nobleton, Ont. native had 96 points (33G, 63A) in 66 regular-season games, before adding another 11 points (2G, 9A) in 13 playoff appearances.

This, after breaking an OHL record the year prior for the most goals ever by a 16-year-old with 21 as a league rookie.

The numbers are blinding – and that type of potential, certainly, has scouts salivating at what could be in the offing. Experts have already drawn parallels to Canucks blueliner (and Norris frontrunner) Quinn Hughes for the array of offensive weapons and dynamic footspeed in his arsenal.

Ask Parekh, though, and there’s even more just waiting to be unleashed from that 6-foot-0, 179-lb. frame.

“Obviously, I love watching Hughes, Adam Fox and Cale Makar, and I love the way those guys manipulate the guys they're playing against,” he says. “I try to take a couple things from those guys' games. But you know what? I don't think there's one player I play like. I try and take little things from everybody.

“But when I look back on my year now, the numbers don’t really matter to me. I knew at the start of the season I had to take steps in the right direction in terms of my play and trying to round out my defensive game.

“I think I did that – especially towards the end of the season.

“When I first game into this league, I didn't really realize the flaws in my game and what was wrong with how I was playing. But if I go back and watch the tape now, it's pretty evident and I could see it right away. So, I was definitely wanted to try and round out the defensive side of my game and my decision-making – not always thinking offence all the time, but trying to defend super hard and compete.”


And did he see progress in that regard?

“100%,” he says confidently. “I could even see it in practice with how my habits were.

“It's definitely taken a huge step from where it was.”

Incredibly, Parekh did this while maintaining his game-breaking offensive talent. It’s why he ascended so rapidly from 10th on Central Scouting’s midterm list, to a spot at the very top end.

He’s now neck-and-neck with Artyom Levshunov and Zeev Buium as the best-available d-man, while constantly finding ways to improve his draft stock as the year goes along. And unlike the other two, Parekh has another tournament’s worth of national showings to put his best skate forward.

The right-shooting rearguard has proven himself to be unstoppable with the puck on his stick. The speed, hands, creativity and deceptiveness are on another level, while his innate hockey IQ translates that physical assertiveness into… well…

A showstopper.

And soon, one lucky team will be tapping into that ceiling as a potential No. 1 defenceman down the road.

“There were points in the year when I definitely caught myself thinking about (the draft),” Parekh laughed. “But honestly, right now, I haven't thought too much about it. I'm trying to soak up the last few weeks I have with the guys and prepare for this Memorial Cup. The goal is to win here – and if I could end on a high this season, that's the dream for me.”

Parekh and the Spirit will raise the on curtain the 2024 Memorial Cup on Friday when they square off with the Moose Jaw Warriors at 5:30 p.m. MT.