Names To Know: Zayne Parekh Is A Dynamic Scoring Defenseman That Will Go Early In 2024 NHL Draft

By Will Chase on May 15, 2024 at 10:15 am
2024 NHL Draft prospect, Zayne Parekh, Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League of the Canadien Hockey League
YouTube/Ontario Hockey League

Welcome to the 3rd installment of our "Names To Know," 2024 edition, a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.

Zayne Parekh, 6-foot, 181 lbs, is an 18-year-old defenseman from Canada who spent his second season in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit. In his first season with the Spirit in 2022-23, Parekh scored 37 points (21 goals, 16 assists) in 50 games. Parekh scored nine points (six goals, three assists) in 11 playoff games.

He spent three weeks out of the lineup last year due to injury and still broke the OHL's goal-scoring record for under-17 defensemen in '22-23.

Previous "Names to Know"

In 2023-24, Parekh's scoring numbers improved to a team-leading 96 points, 33 goals, and 63 assists in 66 games. He added 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 13 playoff games.

The Athletic's Corey Pronman wrote about Parekh in April:

Parekh is an extremely talented offensive defenseman who has arguably been the best defenseman in the OHL this season. He has a ton of skill and hockey sense. When the puck is on his stick he beats opponents one-on-one often. His brain operates differently from other players on the ice in how he sees the ice and can take an extra second with the puck to create a scoring chance. He skates well and can attack with his speed and skill. He has strong edge work and top speed and is very elusive off the blue line. He also has an excellent point shot being a constant goal-scoring threat. The big issue with Parekh is his play away from the puck. He gives half-efforts at times defensively and cheats for offense. I've seen worse defenders though. He picks off a lot of passes and makes stops but will likely never be a tough minutes defender. He projects as a top pair/PP1 type who may need to be deployed away from opponents’ top forwards.

The best-scoring defenseman in the OHL this past season, Parekh tied for seventh among all players with 96 points and was named Defenseman of the Year, becoming the first Spirit to win the award.

From The Athletic's Scott Wheeler:

Parekh has turned me into a total believer over the last two seasons, even though that's not the case for everyone. He might even be in a special tier offensively. Last season, despite playing in just 50 of Saginaw’s 68 games after missing three weeks due to injury from the end of February into March and another couple for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (where he scored three goals and five points in seven games as the highest-scoring defenseman on the fourth-place-finishing Canada Black), he still broke the OHL’s all-time goals record by a U17 defenseman, scoring 21 times and regularly looking dynamic on the puck as a rookie. An OHL Cup All-Star and first-round pick into the OHL before that, Parekh was then the most talented offensive defenseman in junior hockey this year, winning the OHL’s defenceman of the year award and scoring and producing at an all-time great draft-year rate, breaking the 30-goal and 90-point mark as the leading scorer on the Memorial Cup hosts by more than 20 points. Though he has missed some playoff games due to an upper-body injury I’m told he has played through in the games he has been in, he has been a difference maker for Saginaw in the postseason when he has played as well.

A defenseman with a high offensive upside, Parekh has the potential to flourish in the right situation. Just as we've seen with many of the teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, featuring elite two-way players and blueliners who can rack up points. 

I know some scouts were interested to see how he'd do at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on-ice testing and he performed well (he's not the fastest going forward but his maneuverability compensates). And I also believe he defends at a high enough level to be given free rein to go out there and look to make plays. Though his defense is a common criticism among scouts, I'd argue he's got a great stick and reads the play quite well. I've liked what I've seen from him on the penalty kill, and even though he definitely doesn't play a physical style and can get exposed for not being hard enough in engagements, I think he's made important progress in his own zone. There are times when his posture will look disengaged and upright, and you'd like him to really get low and battle, but he's playing to win pucks with his stick and does so fairly well (he's never going to be a staunch defender). Add in a frame that is a little more mature than I think people realize/give him credit for, that he's a very good communicator (he's constantly talking on the ice), passes that are almost always tape-to-tape and perfectly flat, an ability to draw penalties escaping pressure as well as just about anyone in the draft (he's never in trouble), and a want to have the puck and make a difference, and there’s a very high-end package. He has played huge minutes for a top team this season and if he can defend at a reasonable level in the NHL (which I believe he'll be able to) he's got star power offensively. He won't be for every team, but I'd pick him early without much hesitation and bet on the rare skill.

One of the highest-scoring defensemen in the draft, we will see how Parekh's game translates in the NHL. He'll likely still be on the board past Columbus' selection at No. 4, and he could be just the guy for the Ottawa Senators at No. 7.

Mock Draft Results
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My NHL Draft 7th
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