-- It made no difference to the scouting team of the Nashville Predators
that Zach Budish
didn't play a single period of hockey this past season at Edina High School in Minnesota. They had already seen enough.
Let's face it, at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, Budish possesses the kind of size and pizzazz teams dream about. The 18-year-old forward is still growing -- precisely the reason the Predators made him the first of their two back-to-back second-round picks (No. 41) in Saturday's second round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
"Zach has really good hands and sees the ice very well, makes plays and has a hard shot off a quick release," Predators scout David Westby said. "I guess he did sit out with the knee injury, but I saw him skate afterwards and he's comfortable that it won't be an issue. All the doctors have confirmed that and he's on his way to a full recovery."
Budish tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in October while playing linebacker for Edina's football team and missed the entire hockey season. As a result, there wasn't a lot to fall back on when making comparisons -- but Budish has a big frame, performed admirably at the NHL Combine and produced 27 points in 15 games with the Team Southwest of the Minnesota High School Elite League just prior to his injury, speaking volumes of his raw talent.
"The injury probably brought me down a little bit (in the draft), but it's not where you are now, it's where you are when you're ready to step in -- and I feel like I've been doing my rehabilitation to the best of ability," Budish said. "I'll continue to do that and, hopefully, be in the NHL some day."
The University of Minnesota-bound right wing posted 26 goals and 63 points in 30 regular-season games with Edina during the 2007-08 season. He entered the draft ranked 22nd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and was second among scholastic players to Phillips Andover Academy's Chris Kreider
, who was drafted No. 19 by the Rangers. The first high school player off the board in the opening round was Eden Prairie's Nick Leddy
to the Minnesota Wild
with the No. 16 pick.
"I'm definitely happy for those two guys and wish them the best of luck," said Budish, who will room with Leddy at the University of Minnesota in the fall. "Nick is one of my great friends and it was good to see him taken by the Wild -- that's great for him and his family."
Budish was cleared for drills in April and took part in all the fitness tests at the NHL: Combine, including the lower-body strength and conditioning tests. He said if he and Predators feel he isn't yet ready for NCAA play, Green Bay of the United States Hockey League is another option.
"We'll see what happens," Nashville coach Barry Trotz
said. "Our scouting staff really had a lot of good things to say about Zach. They're really happy we were able to pull the trigger on him -- he's got size and is very athletic. They feel he could be one of those big power forwards so we're delighted that we had the opportunity to draft him."
Budish was actually at a loss for words when he slipped on a Predators jersey upon meeting management at the team table at the Bell Centre.
"This is definitely one of the biggest accomplishments of my life so far," he said. "To be selected by an NHL team and by a great organization in Nashville is a dream. I'm just looking forward to getting it all started.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com