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Zayne Parekh is the crown jewel of the Flames’ elite group of puck-moving defence prospects

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Gould
25 days ago
There might not be another team in the entire National Hockey League with as many top-tier offensive defence prospects as the Calgary Flames.
After selecting Saginaw Spirit rearguard Zayne Parekh with the No. 9 overall selection in the 2024 NHL Draft, the Flames now possess the two highest-scoring defencemen in the entire Ontario Hockey League during the 2023-24 regular season.
Parekh, 18, played an instrumental role in the Spirit winning the Memorial Cup this past spring, collecting five points in five games and logging a ton of minutes as his team captured the top honour in Canadian junior hockey.
Prior to that, Parekh racked up an eye-popping 33 goals and 96 points in 66 games with Saginaw during the regular season and, for good measure, tacked on 11 points in 13 OHL playoff contests.
A forward with that kind of production would be a shoo-in to go in the top half of the first round. Parekh is a six-foot, 182-pound defenceman who didn’t turn 18 until more than halfway through his draft year. He’s a rare talent.
Daily Faceoff prospect guru Steven Ellis had Parekh ranked all the way up at No. 4 on his final draft board. Almost every analyst out there had the Nobleton, Ontario product higher than where Calgary ended up getting him. From a pure value standpoint, the Flames did very well.
Parekh will forever be compared with fellow puck-moving defenceman Zeev Buium, who went to the Minnesota Wild just three picks after Calgary made its selection. Buium is three months older than Parekh and shoots left, not right; he most recently led the Denver Pioneers to an NCAA National Championship.
We won’t know for years whether the Flames made the right call in picking Parekh, but it’s hard to complain too much about them taking such an aggressive swing on an uber-skilled player. As The Athletic‘s Scott Wheeler put it in his first round retrospective late on Friday: “In going back through the Flames’ draft history, you probably have to go all the way back to the Al MacInnis pick to find a defenceman whose talent and uniqueness matches Parekh.”
Parekh is the latest addition to an impressive group of puck-moving defence prospects in Calgary that has grown considerably since Craig Conroy took over as general manager barely a year ago. He’s also the best of the bunch, although the others aren’t to be overlooked.
Conroy inherited Jérémie Poirier, who the Flames nabbed with a third-round pick back in 2020. In his first draft as GM, the Flames selected smooth-skating lefty Étienne Morin — Central Scouting’s No. 2-ranked North American defender — in the second round.
Then, midway through his first season on the job, Conroy swung a trade that saw Elias Lindholm head to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a package headlined by Hunter Brzustewicz, who became arguably the Flames’ top skater prospect — that is, before Parekh arrived on Friday.
Imagine a world in which Parekh and Brzustewicz both turn into high-end point-producing defencemen at the NHL level. The 19-year-old Brzustewicz finished just behind Parekh with 92 points (including a league-leading 79 assists) in 67 games with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers last season.
Curiously, as it stands, Parekh and Brzustewicz are the Flames’ only two true right-handed defence prospects. While Brayden Pachal is under 25 years of age, he’s coming off a 50-game season and his name is already on the Stanley Cup. The Flames have more than a half-dozen solid young left-handers on defence, but their right side is relatively thin.
Calgary Flames U-25 defensive depth chart
Kevin BahlZayne Parekh
Jérémie PoirierHunter Brzustewicz
Étienne MorinBrayden Pachal
Ilya Solovyov
Yan Kuznetsov
Artem Grushnikov
Joni Jurmo
Axel Hurtig
*Nikita Okhotiuk
* – Okhotiuk recently signed a two-year contract with KHL club CSKA Moscow; his NHL rights will remain with Calgary until he turns 27.
All four of Parekh, Brzustewicz, Morin, and Poirier are capable puck-movers who skate well and can put up a ton of points. It’s been a long time since the Flames had this amount of depth at any single position in their prospect pool. And don’t forget: Calgary also has a handful of more defensive-oriented young defenders in its stable, including Kevin Bahl, Ilya Solovyov, Artem Grushnikov, and Yan Kuznetsov.
With Jesse Pulkkinen, Alfons Freji, Charlie Elick, Dominik Badinka, Leo Sahlin Wellenius, Cole Hutson, Henry Mews, Aron Kiviharju, and many others all still available heading into the second day of this year’s draft, the Flames will have even more chances to add to their group on the back end. Many of those players were ranked as potential first-rounders in various projections.
The Flames have plenty of work to do in building a championship-calibre group of young forwards. Matvei Gridin, their second pick on Friday, is a nice piece, but they might have to wait until next year’s draft to find their next top-line centre or winger of the future.
But as the old adage goes, contenders are built from the blue line out. If Parekh hits, he could give the Flames their jack-of-all-trades No. 1 defenceman to rival the likes of Quinn Hughes and Evan Bouchard in the Pacific Division.
Wouldn’t that be something.

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