2008-09: Despite the fact that Zach Budish missed the entire season due to a torn ACL he suffered in a playoff game with the Hornets football team back in October, he was still regarded as one of the top Minnesota high school players in this year’s draft. A big reason is his outstanding performance at the 2008 Ivan Hlinka Tournament, where Budish led Team USA in goal scoring with three goals and added two assists in four games. CSS ranking going into the draft: 22nd among NA skaters. Budish got back on the ice at Nashville Predators conditioning camp in July 2009, and will attend the 2009 U.S National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid.
2009-10: Budish appeared in 39 games as a freshman for the University of Minnesota, putting to rest any worries about the knee injury he suffered playing football during his senior year of high school. The bruiser scored 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points in his first collegiate season.
2010-11: Budish was off to a fast start in his sophomore season at Minnesota, scoring 2 goals with 4 assists in the Gophers’ first seven games, before suffering a season-ending knee injury in a moped accident. Minnesota finished fifth in the WCHA.
2011-12: Both Budish and the Gophers had a comeback season. Minnesota returned to the top of the WCHA and the junior was a big part of that success. Budish was plus-20 and scored 12 goals with 23 assists and had 43 penalty minutes in 43 games for the first-place Gophers. After having lost to North Dakota in the WCHA tournament, Minnesota defeated the Fighting Sioux in the NCAA West Regional Final to reach the Frozen Four.
2012-13: Budish signed a two-year entry-level contract with Nashville in April and made his pro hockey debut with AHL Milwaukee following his senior season at Minnesota. He played nine regular season games with the Admirals and three games in the playoff series against Texas. Budish scored 1 goal with 3 assists and was +6 with 2 penalty minutes. He was a team captain for Minnesota as the Gophers tied for first in the WCHA in their final season before heading to the new Big Ten Conference. Frequently teamed with center Erik Haula (Minn),Budish scored 14 goals with 22 assists in 40 games and was +17 with 14 penalty minutes. The Gophers lost to Colorado College in the WCHA semifinals and fell 3-2 in overtime to eventual national champion Yale in the NCAA West Regional semifinals.
2013-14: Budish split his first pro season between Nashville AHL affiliate Milwaukee and the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. He spent most of the year with the Admirals — seeing limited ice time — before being sent to the Cyclones at the end of February and participating in their playoff run to the Kelly Cup finals. Budish scored three goals with six assists and was plus-four with 22 penalty minutes in 41 games for Milwaukee. He scored three goals with six assists and was minus-four with six penalty minutes in 16 regular season games for Cincinnati and in 24 playoff games he scored six goals with five assists and was plus-seven with 12 penalty minutes. Cincinnati lost to Alaska in six games in the Kelly Cup finals.
Budish is a complete player. At nearly 6’3", he certainly has size. Budish is a powerful skater who has remarkably good speed and acceleration for such a big man. He has great instincts, good vision, and makes very good decisions in all three zones. Budish utilizes his large frame and strength very well, including on the physical side and is quite difficult to move off the puck. He can deliver some solid checks without taking himself out of the play. He also has great hands and superb playmaking ability.
Budish was the 41st player taken in the 2009 NHL Draft after dominating Minnesota high school hockey but was more of a two-way forward during his college career and it looks like that will be his niche in pro hockey. Entering the second year of his initial two-year entry-level contract, Budish will push for a more significant role with Nashville AHL affiliate Milwaukee in the 2014-15 season with hopes of one day cracking the lineup of the parent club.