CALGARY -- Zayne Parekh is hoping an accelerated approach off the ice can help speed up his arrival time to the NHL with the Calgary Flames.

The 18-year-old defenseman prospect earned his high school diploma at 16, which allowed him to focus his attention solely on hockey while playing for Saginaw of the Ontario Hockey League the past two seasons.

"I started a year early with the 2005s, and from there I was always a pretty good student, obviously," Parekh said. "Grade six comes around and my dad came up with the idea of fast-tracking to grade eight and skipping grade seven, and then that put me with the 2004s there.

"I did my four years of high school and got more than enough credits to graduate, and I've kind of been playing hockey since then. The last two years I haven't really had to do much. I have the luxury of getting up at 9 or 9:30 and going to the rink and skating before everyone.

"For me, it was the best thing for my development. I think it'll continue to be amazing because at this point I'm a hockey player."

To this point, the move has paid dividends.

Parekh (6-foot, 179 pounds) set the OHL record for goals by a 16-year-old defenseman during his first season with Saginaw in 2022-23, scoring 21 in 50 games. He then led all OHL defensemen in goals (33) and points (96) in 66 games last season, winning the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league's defenseman of the year. It was the most points by an OHL defenseman since Ryan Ellis had 101 points (24 goals, 77 assists) in 2010-11.

Parekh drafted by Calgary Flames

After helping Saginaw win the Memorial Cup, Parekh was selected by the Flames with the No. 9 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft and signed a three-year, entry-level contract on July 5.

"One of the main attributes of drafting him was his sense, his hockey IQ," Flames director of player development Ray Edwards said. "He's a highly intelligent individual. You know he's going to pick stuff up. There's always adjustments on the fly. That's an area we know is good.

"For Zayne, it's going to be all body related, put some muscle on him and get him stronger, and then the other stuff will be just play without the puck. We can start teaching him and working."

Another element Parekh wants to be schooled in is his skating, and there are two players in particular he hopes to one day emulate.

"With Quinn (Hughes) and Cale (Makar), they're deception kings. I've said it before and I'll say it again," Parekh said. "They think the game at a high level, too. I'm looking to get where they are in terms of skating.

"I have a pretty good brain, and if I can get the skating to their point, I think it'll be a pretty dangerous tool."

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