The breadth of defensive talent in the top half of the first round is one of the major storylines entering the 2024 NHL Draft.

Macklin Celebrini, a forward, is expected to be selected by San Jose with the No. 1 pick. After Celebrini, Michigan State defenseman Artyom Levshunov is the most popular choice among media analysts to be selected by Chicago with the No. 2 pick.

But even beyond Levshunov, as many as seven other defensemen have been talked about in the top 15 conversation, including a group of five – Anton Silayev, Carter Yakemchuk, Sam Dickinson, Zayne Parekh, and Zeev Buium – who have been mocked by many experts in the top 10.

That said, there are also talented options at forward, meaning one of those defensemen could end up being available when the Sabres select at 11th overall.

We’ve already looked at seven forwards who could be available for the Sabres in the first round. Today, once again with analysis from FloHockey’s Chris Peters and’s Mike Morreale, we’re examining seven potential defense options with the No. 11 pick.

Find Peters’ full top 100 rankings here and listen to his commentary on the “Talking Hockey Sense” podcast.

Morreale’s latest mock draft can be found here in its entirety. You can listen to Morreale and deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman break down the draft on their “NHL Draft Class” podcast.

Adam Jiricek – RHD, Plzen (Czechia)

6-foot-2, 182 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 19 GP – 0 G – 1 A – 1 P

The Sabres’ current defense corps features three young players on long-term contracts (Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and Mattias Samuelsson) plus a fourth who was acquired last season in Bowen Byram.

Jiricek checks multiple boxes that could make him a complementary piece within that larger picture. He’s a right shot - Byram, Dahlin, Power, and Samuelsson are all left shots - while his 6-foot-2 frame is a tool he uses to his advantage defensively.

Coming off a season that ended in December due to a knee injury, Jiricek has been ranked in a variety of placements. Peters has him 16th on his overall list; Morreale has him eighth among defensemen (behind Levshunov and the other six defenders on this list).

NHL Central Scouting Services (NHL CSS), meanwhile, ranks Jiricek fourth among international skaters, offering the following description: “Two-way player that likes to join the rush. Still at his best in the defensive zone, where he is an effective checker who stays with his man. Excellent competitor who works hard on every shift. Keeps his play simple and effective. Has all the tools needed to become a star.”

What he’s saying:

Adam’s older brother, David, is also a right-shot defenseman who was drafted by Columbus with the sixth-overall pick in 2022. Still only 20 years old, David has already appeared in 47 career NHL games and helped lead their AHL affiliate in Cleveland to the league’s Eastern Conference Final this month. 

Adam was asked during the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo to compare his game to David’s.

“I always say, he has a better shot and I have better skating,” Adam said. “… He’s more offensive and I’m more two-way defending.”

Anton Silayev – LHD, Torpedo (KHL)

6-foot-7, 211 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 63 GP – 3 G – 8 A – 11 P

This may be the biggest long shot on this list, as Silayev – thanks to his 6-foot-7 frame, skating, and pro experience in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) – is typically projected in media mock drafts to be selected in the top five, if not the top three.

The one slight wild card with Silayev is his KHL contract, which reportedly runs through 2025-26.

“I mean, there’s always the chance that even an Anton Silayev slips because of either concerns about the Russian factor or whatever else,” Peters said. “The fascinating thing is this D class is about as good as you could hope for at the top of the draft.”

Silayev’s 11 points were the most ever by an under-18 player in the KHL. NHL CSS describes him as a “tower on ice with an excellent physical presence.”

Carter Yakemchuk – RHD, Calgary (WHL)

6-foot-3, 201 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 66 GP – 30 G – 41 A – 71 P

Yakemchuk is a popular selection to Buffalo in media mock drafts. He, like Jiricek, is a towering, right-shot defenseman. But Yakemchuk is also coming off a prolific offensive season that saw him lead Western Hockey League (WHL) defensemen with 30 goals.

“Yakemchuk is really fascinating,” Peters said. “He’s a dynamic offensive talent. He’s got size, he’s got some skating ability. He needs to get stronger and he needs to make some better decisions with the puck at times, needs to get better defensively. But he’s got the willingness and he’s got some jam to him. So, you have the size and the skill factor and the fact that he’s a right shot, and that’s more interesting.”

Added Morreale: “He’s a big, mobile guy, he’s active along the blue line, real strong on his skates. He’s confident, likes to really move the puck up the ice. He can beat defenders one-on-one as a defenseman with his speed and he’s got some dangles to his game, too.”’s Adam Kimelman is among those who have mocked Yakemchuk to the Sabres, citing his potential to one day fit alongside the organization’s current stable of young defensemen.

What he’s saying:

Yakemchuk was asked who he models his game after in the NHL.

“I like Evan Bouchard on the Oilers,” he said. “Just the way he plays in the offensive zone, his creativity as well as his shot.”

Sam Dickinson – LHD, London (OHL)

6-foot-2, 199 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 68 GP – 18 G – 52 A – 70 P

20240613 Dickinson

Dickinson – like Yakemchuk, Buium, and Parekh – has been projected to be picked as early as the middle of the top 10. He could also be there for the Sabres at 11, depending on what happens with the aforementioned three names.

Dickinson is coming off a prolific offensive season in his own right – his 70 points ranked fourth among defensemen in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) – while his size and reach could make him an effective defender in his own zone.

NHL CSS describes Dickinson as a “very good skating and puck-moving defenseman with great offensive instincts.”

“I think for him in particular, you look at the entire athletic package that he delivers with the size and the skating ability, the production, and then the fact that he can defend and then play a strong game, that makes him probably - outside of Levshunov - one of the better-rounded guys,” Peters said.

What he’s saying:

Dickinson was asked during his media interview at the Combine to make a case for himself as the top defenseman in the draft.

“I think for my game, it’s just the completeness of it,” he said. “I think offense, defense, transitionally, (teams) want to get a defenseman that can do everything that I do. So, I think that for me, it’s just the completeness and overall aspects of my game that make me the best.”

Stian Solberg – LHD, Valerenga (Norway)

6-foot-2, 194 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 42 GP – 5 G – 10 A – 15 P

Solberg forced his way into this conversation with his showing at the men’s World Championship in May, where he was named a top three player for Norway while playing against rosters that featured established NHL players.

While his level of competition in Norway’s professional league is less touted than those of countries like Sweden, Finland, or Russia, Peters suggested that Solberg’s international performance – namely his eye-catching physicality – could be enough for him to climb teams’ draft boards.

“That’s a really intriguing player,” Peters said. “He’s physical, he’s 6-foot-2, he’s got some real strength to him and some clear pro traits. I think people are more confident in his puck-moving ability. So, that’s a guy who could potentially go a little bit higher than we would expect.”

The Athletic’s Corey Pronman also suggested it being within the realm of plausibility that Solberg could be an option with the 11th pick during an appearance on Sabres Live with Brian Duff and Martin Biron.

“That guy is a killer,” Pronman said. “He is the most physical player in this year’s draft. He’s 6-2, he skates well, reminds me a lot of guys like Kaiden Guhle or Braden Schneider when they were coming into the draft.”

What he’s saying:

Solberg will move to Sweden next season to play for Farjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

“I just feel like that’s my next step to take,” he said. “Sweden is a really competitive league with some great players and it’s a great place to develop.”

The Athletic's Corey Pronman joins Sabres Live

Zayne Parekh – RHD, Saginaw (OHL)

6-foot-0, 179 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 66 GP – 33 G – 63 A – 96 P

Parekh led OHL defensemen in goals (33) and points (96) and was recognized as Defenseman of the Year by the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), which is comprised of the OHL, WHL, and Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League. (Sabres prospect Vsevolod Komarov was also a finalist for the award.)

Ranked fifth among North American skaters by NHL CSS, Parekh is often mocked in the top 10 by media analysts. That said – as mentioned before – his status will be tied to how teams rank the other defensemen on this list.

“I think it’s very possible that one of those four defensemen whether it’s Buium, Dickinson, Parekh, and Yakemchuk, I think those are the guys who are more likely to be (at 11) and then you have a decision to make,” Peters said.

NHL CSS describes Parekh as a composed, intelligent defenseman who skates well, is creative offensively, and “plays with some swag.”

Zeev Buium – LHD, Denver (NCHC)

6-foot-0, 183 pounds

2023-24 statistics: 42 GP – 11 G – 39 A – 50 P

Buium, like Parekh, is most often placed among the top 10 of mock drafts – in some cases among the top five. He is similar to Parekh in stature and in his projection as a dynamic offensive defenseman.  

Buium is coming off a historic freshman season that culminated in a national championship at the University of Denver over Celebrini and Boston University. His 50 points led collegiate defensemen despite being the second-youngest player in the NCAA. has Buium second to Levshunov on its list of draft-eligible defensemen. He is second to Levshunov among North American defensemen by NHL CSS.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but if Artem Levshunov or Zeev Buium are there, I think the Sabres would take one or the other,” Morreale said.

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