The 2024 NHL draft is officially over and there’s no shortage of news around the NHL. The Calgary Flames were an intriguing team with many wondering what direction GM Craig Conroy would go with his draft.

The Flames had an active draft, with multiple picks in the first four rounds. Conroy is hoping the new prospects drafted this year will help to return the team to relevancy going forward.

The Flames didn’t get their prodigal son Tij Iginla, who went to Utah at sixth overall. Despite Iginla not coming home to Calgary, there’s a lot to be excited about with this draft class.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the fresh faces joining the Flames prospect pipeline:

Round 1, Pick 9: Zayne Parekh, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

With the top pick, the Flames chose to continue building from the back end. Conroy is building a stable of young defensemen with Hunter Brzustewicz (19), Artem Grushnikov (21), Kevin Bahl (24), and Daniil Miromanov (26) added recently.

Conroy kept the strategy consistent by adding Parekh in the top ten. A slightly smaller defenseman at 6’0”, 181 lbs., the smooth-skating Parekh makes up for his size with eye-popping offensive production. Parekh had 96 points for the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Saginaw Spirit, a 59 point increase from his previous season.

His 96 points led OHL defensemen, and in the top 10 of all players in the league. This 96 point year was the second-most productive season of any OHL defenseman in the 21st century. He trails only Ryan Ellis’s 2010-11 season with the Windsor Spitfires (101 points). Parekh’s 33 goals also led all defensemen, and put him top-20 in the OHL.

Parekh’s impressive season netted him multiple awards including: CHL Defenseman of the Year, the Max Kaminsky Trophy (OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman) and the OHL First All-Star Team. He’s a proven winner with a Gold Medal for Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and a Memorial Cup win with the Saginaw Spirit.

Although Parekh may not be as polished defensively as other top prospects like Artyom Levshunov (Chicago Blackhawks) or Anton Silayev (New Jersey Devils), no other defenseman has the offensive potential of Parekh. The Calgary Flames have lacked a true game-breaking offensive talent on the blue line, so it’s hard not to love this pick.

Round 1, Pick 28: Matvei Gridin, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)

A surprising pick when it was first announced, the Flames opted for the 6’1”, 185 lb. winger who led the United States Hockey League (USHL) in scoring last year. I saw a lot of fans online calling for WHL forward Andrew Basha at this spot, which the Flames ended up getting in the 2nd round (so we all win!).

With that said, it’s hard not to be happy with the selection of Gridin. He had 83 points through 60 games in the USHL this year, topping the competition. Gridin’s 38 goals were also top five in the league. He was named a first-team all star for the USHL and helped lead Muskegon to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

Gridin is a smart, competitive winger who uses his wicked shot to rack up points. It may be the Russian connection, but I’ve seen comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk for the young forward. He’s also been playing in North America for two seasons now, which lightens the adjustment when Gridin is ready to make the jump to the professional level.

He may not play right away, but adding Gridin to a stable of young forwards is great for the Flames. The offensive potential between the Flames first two picks is astounding for a fanbase starved for something to cheer about.

Don’t Give Me Hope

The Flames continue the work from the trade deadline, shedding veterans like Jacob Markstrom and Andrew Mangiapane. This rebuild was overdue and should have began as soon as Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau left town. The Flames did good to add Parekh and Gridin in the first round and had great depth selections as well.

Interestingly, the team added 2 prospects from Calgary, Andrew Basha and WHL defenseman Eric Jamieson. The team only drafted two players from outside Canada, first-round pick Gridin and Russian goaltender Kirill Zarubin. You have to wonder if management is trying to learn from American stars leaving for warmer climates or lower taxes by picking up such a wealth of local talent.

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