2024 NHL Draft ranking: Macklin Celebrini leads Scott Wheeler’s March top 64 prospects

0
8

Parekh has turned me into a total believer 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. An OHL Cup All-Star and first-round pick into the OHL even before his breakout season last year, Parekh is the most talented offensive defenseman in junior hockey this year and has so far scored 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.
He plays an aggressive and natural offensive style that looks to attack off the line into the slot or even the front of the net or below the goal line. He’ll also regularly involve himself in the rush, much like a winger does, driving down the wall in control to look to challenge defenders and attack into his shot or create an odd-man rush. He’s super confident on offense and opening up his feet (where necessary) around the zone without going to his heel-to-heel by default. He’s got great hands and a balanced, almost casual-looking skating posture, which helps him carry pucks and beat the first layer of pressure to get to his spots. When the puck arrives on his stick, it just seems to stop and glue to him through his movements — a very rare quality that almost makes him look lackadaisical with the puck because it’s settled so easily into his pocket. He likes to roam, but he’s also learning to pick his spots better and his head is constantly on a swivel to identify where he is in relation to his teammates. When he plays freely, which is almost always, you’re drawn to him whenever he touches the puck because he’s always a threat to make something happen. He protects the puck extremely well with players leaning on him, escaping situations you wouldn’t expect him to. He’s got great footwork and edges to manipulate across the line and stop up along the boards to change directions or maintain gaps.
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 he also 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, I think he’s made important progress in his own zone. There are times when his posture will look disengaged and a little 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 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 regularly 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.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here