|Zach Budish willingly signed up to play for the U.S. U-18 Select Team in this summer's Ivan Hlinka tournament.|
"It's a thrill, but it is also really competitive," says Budish, 17. "When you play abroad, everything can be stacked against you. It's different food, different beds, different everything. The calls on the ice might go against you, but you can't worry about that. You just have to keep playing."
Hmmm, that doesn't sound like a good way to spend the summer before your senior year of high school. Yet Budish willingly signed up to play for the United States U-18 Select Team in this summer's Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament, going on this week in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Budish learned his international lessons while playing for a Team USA Select Team at the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic last season. The Americans finished second behind the Czechs after losing to the host in the final game for Team USA's loss of the tournament.
"It's good to deal with some adversity," Budish says. "You just have to learn to worry about what is going on on the ice, nothing else."
That lesson, it seems, served Budish well last season after he returned home from his summertime jaunt to the Czech Republic.
A power forward, Budish helped lead his Edina high school team to second place in the prestigious Minnesota High School Tournament that winter.
There, Budish played before record crowds at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. The entire state of hockey-mad Minnesota followed and dissected his every move. Budish never flinched.
At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Budish rarely flinches on the ice. There are few kids his age that can handle his imposing mixture of size and skating skills. Despite his mammoth size, he is not a board rattler when it comes to hits, but he knows how to use his body to his advantage.
"I play maybe a little like Joe Thornton when it comes to style – more assists than goals," Budish said. "I'll hit guys, but I won't crush them; kind of the way that Thornton plays."
Budish says he plays center with Edina and used mostly as a right wing with the United States select teams. But he says that position doesn't really matter, as long as he can help his team of the moment become the best it can be.
It is that selfless leadership – along with the aforementioned combination of size and skill – that have scouts salivating as Budish begins his senior season. He is just one of six A-rated players from Minnesota high school teams on NHL Central Scouting's futures rankings issued last spring. Roseau's Nick Oliver, one of Budish's teammates on the Hlinka tournament team, is another.
A-rated players are projected to be at the top of Central Scouting's rankings for the upcoming 2009 Entry Draft.
"I try not to worry about the draft," Budish says. "If somebody wants to take me, I'll be thrilled. But, I'm not going to change my game just to get drafted."
Budish may not change his game to get drafted, but he knows he must improve to remain an elite player. He says he has spent the summer working on being more explosive with his first stride and he plans to add a little more physicality to his game this year.
But those improvements are not to catch the fancy of the scouts that will flock to Edina this winter. Rather, they are to help Budish accomplish one of his most important goals.
"I'd like to win the state championship with Edina," Budish says. "That's my top priority this year."