2024 NHL Draft

"Things have been great, and my game has changed a lot in a positive way": Zeev Buium making mark early at Denver

Denver defenceman Zeev Buium is days away from turning 18, and he’s already one of college hockey's best blueliners.

According to the data collected by our partners at InStat, he’s already averaging over 22 minutes a game as a true freshman, with 21 points to show for his first 16 games. That’s no small feat, but if this early success is getting to Buium's head, he's doing a good job of hiding it.

“I didn’t change anything. I came in as a true freshman for a reason. To play my game and contribute in the role they need me in," Buium told EP Rinkside. "David Carle is a great coach and he’s helped me take my game to the next level. With all the little details I needed to clean up defensively and anything offensively they could help me with. Just from the start of the year. Things have been great, and my game has changed a lot in a positive way.

Shai Buium, his older brother, plays on the blueline in Denver as well, and he's already gone through the process of the NHL Draft, going to the Detroit Red Wings 36th overall in the second round of the 2021 draft.

“Shai playing here is a huge piece. It’s a great place. It’s got great athletics and academics. The culture is great. The coaches too, DC, Dallas Ferguson, Tavis MacMillan, and Ryan Massa are top-notch and might be the best in college hockey,” Zeev said.

“Then learning from guys who are older than me with similar experiences is really unique. How many guys can say they play with their brother in college hockey? It’s a perfect fit for me and close to home which is good for my family.”

Having a brother to guide him in his draft year is something that a lot of players don’t have.

“For sure. He’s had his own experience in a Covid year and what he went through. Being a guy who probably wasn’t going to be drafted at the beginning of the year, then towards the end of the year, he started jumping up in rankings," Buium remembered. “He said you don’t focus on that. You focus on your game and don’t pay attention to that stuff and be the best player you can be.”

Watching Buium play for the NTDP was tricky. You had to get a lot of viewings and even then, you may have felt like you needed to see more of him because he wasn't getting too much ice time as a draft-minus-one blueliner.

“There’s a ton of great players there. Everyone who goes there was the best on their team in prior years, and everyone knows how to play the game the right way. It’s definitely a hard place to earn your spot and get through that to be a top guy,” Buium responded. “From the first day I got there I wasn’t looked at as a high-d on that team. I wasn’t going to get power play or anything like that.

“I knew in my head that’s what I can be. That’s the player I am. I just have to come to the rink every day to work and prove everyone wrong. By my last year, I was playing most minutes as a D-man and first power play. For me, I think I was the best D, and a lot of the guys would back me up, and the coaches would respect that, too. I think I earned that role. It wasn’t given to me when I first got there. It was a great experience to go through that.”

Here is what an NHL scout had to say about Buium:

“I think he’s a top 15 pick. The public is sleeping on how good he is. He’s incredibly intelligent. He’s a very deceptive, skilled puck mover and offensive playmaker. He’s been dynamic on the PP at Denver and his skating and defending look better this year than it did at the USNTDP.”

A key ingredient to Buium’s seamless transition has been his defense partner, Sean Behrens, who was drafted 61st overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2021 NHL Draft.

“Playing with some of the guys here makes it easier. I play with Sean Behrens 90-95 percent of the time and it’s really easy to play with him. He never really makes any mistakes,” Buium boasted. “Guys like him, and Shai, we are on the same power play, so we connect very well. I think when I’m playing my best and working hard and being competitive the points just kind of roll in.”

Many would say that Buium’s speed is his biggest asset but his emerging physicality could be something that really moves him up the draft rankings as the season rolls on.

“I think when people come to watch me, they might be surprised with the chip I have on my shoulder. I’m not a soft guy and I don’t let guys get in my face. I like to be the guy to get in people’s faces. I’ll use my body when I need to,” Buium proclaimed.

“I don’t get knocked off pucks easily and I think my puck protection is something I take pride in. Especially for someone who’s not an enormous guy. Or someone who muscles through people. I use my edges and my stick skills and protect pucks and make plays. I try and use my body defensively a lot and try and do it even more. It’s been a big piece that I’ve added to my game.”

“A huge part of my game is when I get the puck on the blueline, and I can beat that one guy or whatever the play gives me. I think I can beat the first time every time,” Buium mentioned.

USA Hockey's World Junior Selection Camp is slated to run Dec. 14-16, and he's made the roster. By the end of that process, he'll know if he's sticking with them for the World Juniors, set to take place Dec. 26 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“It would be an awesome opportunity to represent your country. Anytime you can wear the USA jersey, it’s a special feeling. I got to wear it the last two years at the U18 Worlds, and that was special, and the win was special. I’d love to get on the biggest stage and perform for our country and hopefully win the gold medal,” he said with pride.  

Buium's done everything he can to make the squad out of college, and they'll be better for having him on their roster. Perhaps enough so to take home gold. And wouldn't a strong showing at that tournament help his draft stock?

Buium’s draft rankings are going to be fluid. I expect him to continue to rise throughout the season.

You may also be interested in:
Denver Pioneers already showing serious growth
Denver Pioneers already showing serious growth
This article is about:
2024 NHL Draft Univ. of Denver USA U20 USNTDP Juniors NCAA WJC-20 Zeev Buium
Scoring Leaders