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Half of the top dozen prospects for the 2024 NHL Draft are blueliners (and they all have their strengths)

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Photo credit:Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
1 month ago
Folks, we’re about two months away from the 2024 NHL Draft. It’s the very first draft of the Calgary Flames’ re-tooling process – or whatever you prefer to call it – and it goes without saying that it’s quite an important occasion for the hockey club.
If you’re a fan of the Flames trying to get a high-end blueliner, good news: there are six defencemen in the projected top 12 prospects available. But they all offer different strengths and weaknesses, so there may not be a clear-cut “best” one available.
The six defencemen (in alphabetical order):
  • Zeev Buium – left-shot, 6′, 183 lbs; product of Laguna Niguel, Californa; University of Denver Pioneers (NCAA)
  • Sam Dickinson – left-shot, 6’3″, 194 lbs; product of Toronto, Ontario; London Knights (OHL)
  • Artyom Levshunov – right-shot, 6’2″, 209 lbs; product of Zhlobin, Belarus; Michigan State University Spartans (NCAA)
  • Zayne Parekh – right-shot, 6’0″, 181 lbs; product of Nobelton, Ontario; Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
  • Anton Silayev – left-shot, 6’7″, 207 lbs; product of Sarov, Russia; Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL)
  • Carter Yakemchuk – right-shot, 6’3″, 194 lbs; product of Fort McMurray, Alberta; Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Here’s how the defenders land, in order, in recent draft rankings from FC Hockey, Daily Faceoff, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler and Corey Pronman, and McKeen’s. We’ve also included our aggregated consensus list.
ConsensusFC HockeyDaily FaceoffWheelerPronmanMcKeen’s
LevshunovSilayevLevshunovLevshunovLevshunovDickinson
SilayevDickinsonDickinsonParekhYakemchukSilayev
DickinsonBuiumSilayevDickinsonBuiumLevshunov
ParekhLevshunovParekhBuiumSilayevParekh
BuiumParekhBuiumSilayevParekhYakemchuk
YakemchukYakemchukYakemchukYakemchukDickinsonBuium
Y’know when we say that reasonable people can disagree? Well, a lot of very well-informed people disagree over what order these six blueliners should fall on their various rankings, and relying on a “best player available” strategy probably depends on what specific attributes your club values most highly in a defender.
Here are some quick rundowns of the six defenders – with quick summaries via Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis from his rankings earlier this month – and their key accomplishments from this past season.

Zeev Buium

[Ranked 10th] Buium enters the Frozen Four with the opportunity to become just the second U-19 defenseman to break the 50-point barrier in NCAA history. That alone is exciting. Buium is a great skater who loves the puck on his stick, and he never seems to get frazzled, no matter the situation. In the NHL, look for Buium to become a high-output puck distributor who can score, hit, block shots and play on both special team units.
Buium had 50 points in 42 games – as a rookie defenceman – and won both the World Junior gold medal (with the United States) and the NCAA national championship (with the University of Denver). He’s amassing a heck of a trophy case.

Sam Dickinson

[Ranked 4th] In a similar vein, I love Dickinson’s game here. A minute-muncher with the Knights, Dickinson can do a bit of everything. He’s calm with the puck, makes smart, quick decisions, and plays so well in transition. He’s 6-foot-3, moves really well and had one of the most productive seasons of any CHL defenseman. There are times he’ll get caught trying to do too much with the puck, but his versatility will make him an attractive option this year.
Dickinson had 70 points in the OHL and won gold with Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Artyom Levshunov

[Ranked 3rd] Levshunov’s play down the stretch made me love him as the No. 1 ‘D’ again. He’s just got everything scouts want in a high-end defender – size, mobility and puck-moving skills, just to name a few quality traits. He led the Spartans in scoring after putting up one of the most impressive Draft+1 seasons by a defenseman in recent USHL history. I think the ceiling for Levshunov to become a team’s No. 1 defenseman is very, very high at this point because there aren’t many notable deficiencies in his game.
Levshunov had 35 points in 38 games – as a rookie defenceman – and was named a second team All-American and received consideration for the Hobey Baker Award.

Zayne Parekh

[Ranked 8th] If any defender in this draft can hit the 70-point marker in the NHL, it’s Parekh. He finished the OHL regular season with 33 goals and 96 points in 66 games to lead all U-18 OHLers. It was the third most productive U-18 season ever by an OHL defender, and he’s one of just two that age to crack 80 points in the 21st Century – the other being Ryan Ellis, who delivered an 89-point season in 2008-09. For reference, Carter Yakemchuk and Sam Dickinson were the only other first-year draft defensemen to break 70 points this year. Parekh was far and away the best offensive defenseman in junior hockey this year, so it’ll be exciting to see just how high he goes. The Memorial Cup will be a big opportunity for Parekh to push himself into the top five.
Parekh had 96 points this season, leading the OHL in goals and points by a blueliner (and narrowly beating out Flames prospect Hunter Brzustewicz in offensive output among defencemen). He won gold with Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Anton Silayev

[Ranked 5th] Silayev dropped two spots here, largely due to just being more interested in the long-term potential in Levshunov and Dickinson. I truly believe Silayev is the best actual defender of the three, but the other two just offer more that gets me – and many scouts – excited. The 6-foot-7 blueliner averaged just under 20 minutes a night while blocking shots, landing hits and showing off great skating for his size. There aren’t a whole lot of big defenders that can skate as well as Silayev does and the upside can’t be ignored.
An April birthday, Silayev jumped from the junior MHL to the pro KHL this season – as a 17-year-old– and played the entire season in the top Russian league. He led all under-18 players in the KHL in points.

Carter Yakemchuk

[Ranked 13th] With 30 goals, 71 points and 120 penalty minutes in 66 games, it was hard not to notice Yakemchuk this year. That’s the type of stat line you’d expect from a power forward – instead, it’s a third-year defenseman that exceeded all expectations this year. Defensively, though, I still need to see more improvement. His decision-making under pressure leaves a bit to be desired, but the potential is high here. With some seasoning, Yakemchuk could be a high-output defender in the NHL.
Playing on a Hitmen team that was a bit lean on high-end talent, Yakemchuk led the WHL in goals by a blueliner with 30 and was named a Central Division First-Team All-Star.
Which of the six blueliners would you target if you were the Flames? Let us know in the comments!
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