The most intriguing Detroit Red Wings prospect is heading to Grand Rapids

Although the Detroit Red Wings’ season ended without playoffs (again), us fans are lucky and got even luckier with a recent signing.
Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

Being a second-generation American isn’t quite the same as being a first-generation. I’ve heard the stories of struggle that my dad and his immediate family faced, but especially his mom. 

She immigrated to the United States during World War II. Some of the story is too gruesome for this tale, so I will just leave you with this: a 12-year-old Polish girl arriving in America to live with her father. She only knew Polish.

Thrust into a Catholic school, she had to quickly learn English and Latin to avoid the nuns' wrath. 

Although life wasn’t easy, she meticulously built her own American Dream. She made the most of what she was given and earned in life. Her legacy is a family who loved her and carries on her family traditions as much as we can. It’s quite the contrast to my generation and some of my fellow Detroit Red Wings, I reckon.

Detroit Red Wings fans, including myself, are spoiled. Missing the playoffs (again) as a fan is a tough pill to swallow, but the season is still going strong for the Grand Rapids Griffins. It’s going even stronger with the Grand Rapids Griffins' most recent signing in Shai Buium.

The Detroit Red Wings signed Shai Buium to a three-year entry-level deal.

Buium is an intriguing player who can do a bit of everything very, very well. I’m not sure if there’s a specific area that Buium is elite in, but he’s an incredibly skilled player in every aspect of the game. 

A first-generation American to Israeli parents who created a home in California, Buium’s love for hockey was sparked by his cousin, who introduced him to the sport. After some convincing, Buium was able to play hockey in California. 

Balancing school, practices, and games wasn’t easy on any of the Buiums, but they seemed to take the challenges in stride. Creating their own American Dream, the Buium family rivals any athletic dynasty. (Seriously, if the Hughes brothers get so much love, I really think the Buiums have earned the same level of adoration, but what do I know?)

Before the Grand Rapids Griffins, Buium played for Shattuck Saint Mary’s and the United States Hockey League (USHL) as part of the Sioux City Musketeers before moving on to the University of Denver.

Don’t forget that during the 2021 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings not only traded up for Sebastian Cossa, but they also traded up for Buium.

Lost in the shuffle of the 2021 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft because of the Cossa hype and mysticism is the fact that the Detroit Red Wings traded up for Buium as well. 

Much like my dad and his first generation siblings, hard work might have been instilled at an early age. Buium, too, seems to have a blue collar work ethic hardwired into his DNA. It’s likely what drew the Detroit Red Wings to Buium.

Assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Kris Draper went to Shattuck Saint Mary’s to scout a few other players. Draper had to ask about this one defenseman, citing size and hockey sense as standout qualities. That player turned out to be Buium.

A communal decision was made during the 2021 NHL Draft to get the player they wanted; thus, Buium was drafted by his favorite NHL team.

Buium can play above average in all situations. He kills penalties, blocks shots, and delivers big hits while maintaining his composure and discipline. Wise beyond his years, Buium only took 14 penalty minutes in 2023-24, 18 penalty minutes in 2022-23, and 12 penalty minutes in 2021-22. 

You might think, well, he might not play hard. He kind of floats or doesn’t engage in play as much as he should. I can tell you, Buium plays as hard as anyone. He goes to the dirty areas and wins board battles as often as he can. Even with the maturity I know Buium plays with, I was astounded to learn his penalty minutes for each of his past three seasons at the University of Denver.

Clean, hard working, disciplined players are hard to find.

Coupling these parts of Buium’s game with his excellent shot, playmaking, vision, hockey sense, good skater, and size, Buium has the makings of an above-average to high-end defenseman who is difficult to acquire in the NHL. He is a player that nobody wants to face and that everyone wants on their team.

In some ways, it’s scary to think of the Grand Rapids Griffins defense adding someone of Buium’s level to their lineup, but I can’t wait to see him. I’m still not certain what the future holds for Buium or the defenseman he will become.

I know that Buium’s writing his own story, and this tryout with the Griffins is just the beginning. Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit Red Wings fans are so lucky to have him.