2024 NHL Draft

How Did Zeev Buium Fall To The Minnesota Wild At No. 12?

How Did Zeev Buium Fall To The Minnesota Wild At No. 12?

Zeev Buium was one of the top rated defensemen in the draft, but when the first round came, he was the last of the top six taken. Chris Peters examines why.

Jun 30, 2024 by Chris Peters

LAS VEGAS -- Everything I heard going into the draft was that Zeev Buium was going to go higher than expected. Some thought it might be Utah, others felt he could go to Montreal if both Ivan Demidov and Cayden Lindstrom were off the board. In the end, he not only went 12th, the Philadelphia Flyers traded out of the spot for the low price of a third-round draft pick from the Minnesota Wild.

Meanwhile, Minnesota may have gotten the steal of the first half of the first round by selecting Buium, who I had as the No. 3 defenseman in the class but can easily admit there’s a chance he becomes the best of the bunch. 

In the end, the draft board fell the way it fell. I was very, very surprised San Jose passed on the opportunity to select Buium at the No. 11 pick they traded up for with Buffalo. Once we got to San Jose, I practically started writing the capsule about how Zeev Buium and Macklin Celebrini would be reunited in the NHL after playing at Shattuck-St. Mary’s together. 

In the end, San Jose opted for size in Sam Dickinson. I would have picked Buium, but I have no gripe with Dickinson because I think he’s a special prospect as well. San Jose coming away with one of the top six defensemen in this draft was clearly a win for them. Time will tell which of the two is better.

But there was one team that has had to do some more explaining to their fan base about passing on Buium, given the range they were picking in.

Why Did Philadelphia Pass On Buium?

When we got to Philadelphia, my sense was that they would take a center all the way. But when Buium was still on the board, it was something they were going to have to consider. Instead, I don’t know if they baited Minnesota or if they to give up an additional asset or maybe they just didn’t want to deal with the optics of passing on the best player available in the eyes of most to take a 5-foot-11 center (who I think is actually a great fit for Philly anyway).

Here is what Daniel Briere said after the draft:

On the surface, I get that. The team has used major assets to get Cam York -- a first-round pick under the previous regime in Philly -- and Jamie Drysdale, who was the key part of the return for Cutter Gauthier, which we'll get to in a minute.

With all due respect to all three of the defensemen mentioned, however, I think there's more overall upside in Buium and he was also decisively the best player available -- at least in my opinion. Also, I feel like there is a talent gulf between Buium and Andrae, leaning decisively toward the former, so I don't think Andrae's presence would preclude a team from taking a player of Buium's quality.

It’s especially tough to square the size argument when you consider that the Flyers took a 5-foot-11 center, which is a below-average size for a player in that position, too. And it’s even harder to take coming from Daniel Briere, who was famously a smaller player, one of the better ones in recent memory. There's no question that Philly could stand to get bigger on the blue line, but I also think there was a pretty sizable gap between the player they passed and the player they selected.

Again, this is not meant to be a slight on Jett Luchanko as I’m very high on the player and think he will be a solid prospect. There was a 12-spot difference between the two players on my list, but I also don't view my own Top 100 as gospel vs. the word of the scouts. I also think this is why Flyers fans have been questioning this particular move and why Briere has had to explain that situation.

And if that explanation above didn't fit for you, there is a conspiracy theory out there among other scouts and it’s one I actually think has at least some merit.

Zeev Buium’s family advisors are from the KO Sports led by Kurt Overhardt. That is the same agency that represents Cutter Gauthier, who of course forced his way out of Philadelphia before ever playing a game for the Flyers after they took him fifth overall two years ago.

The Flyers aren’t confirming this to be true and I still think that they were always going to take a center.  Given the freshness of the Gauthier situation, it's not beyond reason that there would have been some lingering concern about this. I'm not going to fully say that this was the only reason for the decision. If it tipped the scales, though, I would not be surprised.

In the end, the Flyers got a player in Luchanko that fits them well. He has that gritty two-way style and he's also one of the fastest skaters in the draft. He's not some plug. He could be a No. 2 center and play tough matchups while providing scoring pop. He's a good player. Additionally, the Flyers have a third-round pick at their disposal in 2025 that they can use in a variety of ways. I don't think this was some wildly outlandish choice, but I do think it needed more explanation.

While I think the Matvei Michkov pick will be the defining draft pick of Briere's tenure as GM, this particular move is one that will be tracked for a while to see if the second-year GM made the right call with an especially valuable asset as the Flyers continue trying to build up for their future.

What The Minnesota Wild Are Getting In Zeev Buium

He’s a 6-foot defenseman who had a record-setting season in the NCAA. I texted a scout source about how I couldn’t believe Buium got to Minnesota, even if they traded up the one spot to 12.

“Heist,” was the response, affirming the mutual shock that Buium ended up with the Wild.

Minnesota now has a new No. 1 defense prospect who is on a relatively short NHL timeline. Add Buium in with Brock Faber, who graduated from No. 1 defense prospect to Minnesota's No. 1 defenseman in short order, and you’ve got two of the best defensemen in college hockey in an era that has produced star after star after star.

Buium is a winner, having won three titles in less than a year’s time. He has World Under-18 gold, where he was a No. 1 defenseman. He has a World Junior gold where he was a top-four defenseman. And He has an NCAA championship when he was a No. 1 defenseman as a true freshman.

It will be interesting to see what the Wild do with Buium in the near-term. I had heard from a few teams that think he is NHL ready. I have also heard others argue that Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox all played multiple years of college hockey before becoming Norris Trophy winners. Makar and Hughes each played two, while Fox stayed at Harvard for three years.

Denver might take a slight step back next year given a number of losses from their national championship team to pro contracts and otherwise, but having their No. 1 defenseman back would certainly put the nation on notice. Buium would be a clear-cut Hobey Baker favorite should he return to school. He'd also be an integral part of Team USA at the World Juniors, should he decide to not turn pro. 

How Did Zeev Buium Fall To 12?

So let’s take a look at why he got to No. 12, Flyers aside, by reverse engineering the first round of this draft, going pick by pick.

There are a lot of different factors that led to Buium being the last of the best six defensemen to go in the draft, but I wanted to at least take some time to try to make sense of it as I thought it was the biggest surprise of the first round. Yes, bigger than Beckett Sennecke at No. 3. 

San Jose was an easy choice of course with Celebrini being the consensus No. 1.

Chicago always had Levshunov as the top defenseman and was always their preference. No one knew what Anaheim was going to do, but the Beckett Sennecke rumors picked up in the 24 hours prior to the first round. They’re also pretty well set in the offensive defenseman department, even if I think Buium would still help make them better. I think Anaheim's choices came down to Sennecke and Anton Silayev, and they bet on the high-upside scoring winger. Sennecke was 11th on my list, but I understand the late push that had teams raise him on their boards.

Columbus was known to have a strong preference towards getting a big center and did so with Cayden Lindstrom. Montreal took Demidov because he was still available, though I think if he was gone, Buium could have been the No. 5 pick even though Montreal has a loaded prospect pool on defense.

Utah was the next best chance at No. 6, but now we see that they made two trades for established top-four defensemen in John Marino and Mikhail Sergachev and felt they could land a potential face of their franchise in Tij Iginla, one of the top wingers remaining. Fair enough.

Up next was Ottawa, and they went with Carter Yakemchuk who is a big, right-shot defenseman which was more of a priority due to their left-shot strength. On top of that – and I think this is also true of Calgary – my expectation is that several of the Canadian teams are going to start shying away from taking Americans in the first round.

Calgary has seen many of its American stars ask out to head back to the States, while Ottawa has seen players like Alex DeBrincat take off for the U.S. That said, the Sens do have a number of higher-end American players including top defenseman Jake Sanderson and captain Brady Tkachuk, though his status has not been without rumors of a U.S. departure.

I think Canadian teams that aren’t Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, will continue to hedge when it comes to American players, though, and I can't say that I blame them. If you think you'd only have a player for the seven or so years before they become a UFA, you might want to invest in an asset you might be able to squeeze a few more years out of.

I was not surprised to see the San Diego-born Buium passed by Ottawa or Calgary as a result.

Seattle was one that somewhat surprised me when it came to Buium because they’ve used most of their recent draft picks on forwards and have no premium defense talent in their system. Buium would have been a critical piece. However, I can’t really begrudge Seattle going with Berkly Catton, because I also ranked him one spot ahead of Buium.

The Kraken really struggled to score last year and probably felt adding a player who had 54 goals and 116 points as a 17-year-old was going to be a difference-maker in their system and I think they’re right. Either Catton or Buium would have pushed their offensive skill forward as a whole, but the center can probably do it a bit more. I do think Seattle will have to prioritize defense at some point at the draft.

We already talked about Calgary at No. 9 and I think they liked both Buium and Zayne Parekh, who they took at No. 9, but there is some more security in drafting a Canadian-born player. Parekh is also a right-shot who had a similarly historically productive season. So I can understand the lean there even if I think Buium is the stronger of the two prospects.

New Jersey also never really seemed like a realistic option for Buium with Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes in the mix there. So the Devils went and grabbed the big Anton Silayev as a defensive stalwart who should bring some balance to their blue line. Silayev, due to the uniqueness and scarcity of mobile defenseman at his size was my No. 2 defenseman this year.

Then we got to San Jose and they chose Dickinson, betting on size without giving away a ton on the offensive side of things. I am still a bit surprised by this choice given that I think Buium has a bit more offensive upside and hockey sense between the two players, but Dickinson's athletic profile is very enticing and suggests a high ceiling.

And finally, the trade that brought Buium to Minnesota came to fruition.


Zeev Buium has not played a game in the NHL yet. We don’t know how this is going to play out. My belief is he has star potential and could make a major impact in the NHL, but only time will tell if that projection comes true.

Considering the path that Buium has taken, the success he’s had and the massive uptick in his development arc, there’s a chance he could touch on the Cale Makar/Quinn Hughes tier of defenseman in the modern NHL. Considering he actually outproduced both players at the same age with similar skillset and actually a little more size, you just have to wonder what his ceiling can be at the NHL.

To see that same player slip to 12, given the lessons of the past, I simply had to examine it further. While I think we’ve got an explanation for the why, we won’t know for a few years about the actual results.

We’ll stick a pin in this one for now, but it’s going to be fascinating to watch how this all plays out.