Zeev buim skate up ice

The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, a profile on University of Denver defenseman Zeev Buium. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.

Zeev Buium pushed his parents to make him a hockey player. It wasn’t the other way around, and maybe that helps explain where he is today: a World Juniors champion, an NCAA champion and a top prospect in the upcoming NHL Draft.

“I would say it’s the best way, honestly,” Buium said.

Buium’s parents, Sorin and Miriam, moved to the United States from Israel in the late 1990s. Buium said his parents had $1,000, a suitcase of clothes and no English skills. His dad played soccer growing up, and his mom played professional basketball. They knew very little about hockey until their sons later discovered the sport in San Diego.

Buium’s older brother, Shai, got into hockey by watching a cousin who lived down the road, getting up as early as 6 a.m. to do so. Shai’s parents didn’t want him to play at first, but he begged. Then Zeev’s oldest brother, Ben, got into hockey too.

“A couple months later, I wanted to try,” Zeev said. “I didn’t really like it at first. I actually played roller hockey for the first two months and then went back on the ice and just kind of fell in love with it from there. My parents were pretty shocked. Coming from Israel and stuff, it’s the last sport.”

The brothers played hockey in their basement and on the street, having fun, being creative, making plays. They drove their parents to hockey, even if their parents technically were behind the wheel. At one point, the family moved from San Diego up the coast to Laguna Niguel, California, to be closer to hockey in Los Angeles.

“My parents never forced us to go to practice. [They] never told us, ‘You have to go,’ or, ‘You have to do this,’ especially from a young age,” Buium said. “It was kind of just all on us, and we loved to play. We were the ones forcing them to get out of the house to go play or take us to practice.

“There were days when my parents were like, ‘I don’t want to drive. Do we have to go?’ We were, like, ‘We’re driving. We want to go. We want to go.’ It was always us driving it, and they were just there to support us.”

Shai attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota, from 2017-21 and played for Sioux City of the United States Hockey League in 2020-21. He was selected in the second round (No. 36) of the 2021 NHL Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. The 21-year-old defenseman spent the past three seasons at the University of Denver, winning the NCAA title last season with his brother.

Zeev, who is No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, attended Shattuck from 2019-21 and played for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Michigan, from 2021-23. The 18-year-old then stood out at Denver as the second-youngest player in men’s college hockey, behind only Boston University center Macklin Celebrini, the No. 1-ranked North American skater. He also helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship, with five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games and leading the tournament with a plus-11 rating.

David Carle, his coach at the World Juniors and in college, felt the international experience Buium gained provided him an added boost with Denver down the stretch.

“I think every player seems to come back with a higher level of confidence after that event, and knowing that you’re one of the best players in the world I think always makes you feel good,” Carle said. “It’s not unique to Zeev, but it certainly helped his game and I think built this confidence even more knowing he can be a difference-maker game in and game out.”

Buium had 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 42 games, first in the nation among defensemen and fifth among freshmen. He was National Collegiate Hockey Conference Rookie of the Year and Offensive Defenseman of the Year, and he was named to the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team.

Buium said his consistency in defending players with different styles is the most improved area of his game.

“I say it all the time, but I want to be a guy that can play the big moments at the end of the game when we need to kill a play,” Buium said. “That was kind of the biggest thing for me and what my coach harped on the most with me this year.”

Carle worked with him on being aggressive. On offense? Make a move and then attack. On defense? Get to the net early. Box out early. Kill plays early. Get the puck back quickly.

“Who likes defending?” Carle said. “I mean, nobody likes it, so if you don’t want to defend, you have to get good at it, and that’s what he’s taken an onus on. Is he a finished product with that? No. But he’s shown a desire and a willingness and an understanding to appreciate the value of defending quickly so that our team can have the puck more.”

A left-handed shot, Buium can play on either side. Some scouts compare Buium to Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen in terms of style. Buium said the NHL team that drafts him would be getting a smart, smooth-skating, offensive defenseman who can play in all situations, as well as a player who loves hockey and still is driven to go to the rink every day.

“I think for most kids, it’s, ‘Oh, it’s my dream to play,’” Buium said. “And for me, it was more like a goal and something I knew I could do. I think for me, it was just putting the work in and always remembering to have fun with it.”

Related Content