The Nashville Predators have eight prospects at the college level, including seven forwards and one defenseman.
Zach Budish, C – University of Minnesota
Acquired: 2nd round, 41st overall, 2009
After a stellar high school season, Budish had been considered a near lock to go in the first round of the 2009 NHL draft, but an ACL tear during a football playoff game hurt his draft stock. However, the Predators still took the big center in the second round of the 2009 draft. The former linebacker has terrific size for an 18-year-old, and uses it effectively to be an all-around player.
Budish has been having a solid freshman season for Minnesota, posting 10 points, including 5 goals and a +6, in 24 games. Budish’s point total is good for seventh on the team. He seems to have fully recovered from his ACL injury, and if he progresses well, Budish could become a top-six forward in the NHL.
Blake Geoffrion, LW – University of Wisconsin
Acquired: 2nd round, 56th overall, 2006
Geoffrion is a tri-captain at the University of Wisconsin. The 21-year-old is a strong two-way winger with professional physical attributes.
The senior has progressed in the goal column every year at Wisconsin, and has continued that trend this season. Geoffrion leads the team with 15 goals, and has 21 points in 21 games, which is good for fourth on the team. He has also shown great ability on the power play, with nine of his goals coming when up a man. Geoffrion projects as a second or third-line forward.
Ryan Thang, LW – University of Notre Dame
Acquired: 3rd round, 81st overall, 2007
Thang is serving as captain for the Fighting Irish in his senior season. Taken in the third round in 2007, he has seen his offensive production drop during each of his seasons at Notre Dame. His strong defensive game is his calling card and he plays on the third line with Ben Ryan and Riley Sheahan.
As Thang has seen his point totals decrease per year, his penalty minutes have gone in the opposite direction. He has 7 goals and 5 assists so far this season for 12 points total, a far cry from the 41 points he tallied in his freshman year. Thang could make it as a third-line winger.
Thang is excited to graduate and in fact is finishing up his last credit during January.
"I’m excited," Thang told Hockey’s Future. "It’s been a great four years here at Notre Dame and we’re really looking to make a push in the second half, but I’m excited to be done with the school aspect. It’s been a tough couple of years academically, going to the business school, but I finished that up and now can just enjoy playing hockey and look forward to my future."
Ryan Flynn, RW – University of Minnesota
Acquired: 6th round, 176th overall, 2006
Flynn is physical forward. The senior has 8 points in 23 games on the year, though he has only a single goal. Flynn could be a third-line winger, but is not certain to go on to a pro career.
Jeff Foss, D – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Acquired: 6th round, 166th overall, 2006
Foss is a two-way defenseman with quality stick work, and enough skills to be an effective professional defenseman. The junior is aggressive on the offensive side, and jumps into the play often. However, his offensive talents have yet to lead to many points.
Playing for RPI, the sixth rounder has put up a goal and three assists, for four points on the year. He is not very physical, and needs to add strength in order to make it at the next level. If he adds a physical presence to his game, Foss could make it as a third-pairing defenseman when he reaches the NHL.
Ben Ryan, C – University of Notre Dame
Acquired: 4th round, 114th overall, 2007
Ryan is a hard-working forward who excels on the forecheck. He has been consistent in his point production for the Irish, but doesn’t produce the points of a scoring forward.
The fourth-round pick has 5 goals and 11 assists in 26 games. He is fourth on the team in points, and currently on the third line. Ryan needs to work on both his shooting and the physical aspect of his game. If he does, he could have a bright pro future. His NHL prospects are dampened by his size though.
Craig Smith, C – University of Wisconsin
Acquired: 4th round, 98th overall, 2009
Smith has been having a solid season as a freshman for the Badgers. He has not shown much of a scoring touch, but has flashed significant playmaking ability in his short time with Wisconsin.
The fourth-round pick has 3 goals and 14 assists in 20 games. Smith is fifth on the team in scoring, only four points behind Geoffrion. The 20-year-old has a long time to develop, but could be a potential top-six forward in the NHL.
Taylor Stefishen, LW, Ohio State University
Acquired: 5th round, 136th overall, 2008
Stefishen was considered an offensive powerhouse going into college. He showed some scoring touch with 3 goals and 8 points in only 15 games last season.
The fifth rounder is in the middle of the pack this year in scoring, with 3 goals and 7 points in 16 games — the same pace as last year. He has shown some legitimate offensive talent, but is still lacking defensively. He needs to add strength as well in order to make it in the NHL. He could have a future as a second or third-line winger.
Holly Gunning contributed to this article.