Nashville Focuses on Forwards in NHL Draft
Jun 28, 2009
Montreal (June 27, 2009) – The Nashville Predators put and emphasis on talent up front during Day Two of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft at the Bell Centre in Montreal, using seven of nine picks on forwards. Along with defenseman Ryan Ellis, selected 11th overall on Friday night, the Predators finished the draft with 10 new prospects, nine of which are North American. Five of the newest Predators play in the Canadian Hockey League while four are college-bound in the fall of 2009.
Nashville used its first two picks of Day Two, back-to-back selections in the second round, on Edina High School (Minn.) forward Zach Budish (41st overall) and Shawinigan Cataractes defenseman Charles-Olivier Roussel (42nd overall).
Budish, headed for the University of Minnesota, was ranked the 22nd-best North American skater by Central Scouting Bureau in its final ratings. The 6-3, 229-pound power forward missed the entire 2008-09 Minnesota High School season due to a torn ACL sustained while playing football in the fall, but did post 27 points (14g-13a) in 15 games with Team Southwest in the Minnesota High School Elite League which features the state’s top players. In August, he will participate in the United States World Junior Evaluation Camp. The Edina, Minn., native, along with fourth-round pick Nick Oliver, are just the second and third player the Predators have picked directly out of the high school ranks in franchise history (Matt Hendricks, 2000).
“Zach is physically mature in stature, has a good shot in traffic and has a strong ability to dissect the game around him,” Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee said. He’s a force, he’s hard to move off the puck and he can snap a wrist shot from the blue line. I’ve seen how he has carried the team and made people around him better. He reminds me of (St. Louis forwards) Keith Tkachuk or David Backes at the same age.”
Roussel, rated 36th in Central Scouting’s final rankings, is known as a hard-hitting, offensive defenseman, who helped his Shawinigan club reach Game Seven of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Championship series, ranking second among blueliners in postseason points in the process (5g-13a-18pts in 21 gp). The 6-1, 196-pound native of St. Eustache, Que., was selected to the QMJHL Second All-Star Team, in addition to participating in the 2009 CHL Top Prospects Game and the 2008 Canada/Russia Challenge. In August, he will participate in Canada’s World Junior Development Camp. His selection marked the first time Nashville has selected a player from the QMJHL since 2004.
With another pair of picks in the third round at Nos. 70 and 72 overall, the Predators took teammates born 12 days apart, left wing Taylor Beck and center Michael Latta, both of the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.
Beck, a 6-2, 205-pound native of Niagara Falls, Ont., was rated 48th among North American skaters by Central Scouting. He ranked fourth on the 2008-09 Storm in points with 58 points (22g-36a) in 67 games, and notched a goal in the 2009 CHL Top Prospects Game. He is characterized as a two-way, play-making forward.
"Taylor is a hard-working, up-and-down guy," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He plays with lots of energy, he's got good puck skills and play-making ability. He's got a real good shot, he's got a good slap shot."
Latta, another playmaker with good vision, posted 57 points (22g-35a) in 65 games in 2008-09, splitting the season between Ottawa and Guelph. Like his teammate, the 5-11, 200-pound pivot participated in the 2009 CHL Top Prospects Game, where he won the accuracy shooting event by hitting the four targets on six shots.
“We have guys who play with an edge and we have guys that can create chances and score goals for us, but Latta is both at the same time,” Guelph Head Coach Jason Brooks said. “He'll do whatever it takes for the team to win -- blocking shots, winning face-offs, killing penalties. He's a battler, and with his skill level, it makes him a great player."
Nashville held onto all three of its fourth-round picks, picking Waterloo (USHL) center Craig Smith (98th overall), Mora defenseman (Sweden-Jr.) Mattias Ekholm (110th overall) and Roseau High School (Minn.)’s Oliver (110th overall).
Smith, a native of Madison, Wis., is headed back to his hometown to play for the University of Wisconsin in 2009-10. This past season, the 6-1, 189-pound center finished second in the United States Hockey League in assists (48) and fourth in plus/minus rating (+32) en route to being named First Team All-USHL.
Ekholm, a 6-4, 194-pound native of Borlänge, Sweden, is a physical, stay-at-home defenseman who split the 2008-09 season between Mora’s junior and senior teams, playing 59 total games, and tallying 21 points (5g-16a). He has also represented Sweden in international competition, scoring a goal in six games at the 2008 World U-18 Championships.
Nashville went back to the Minnesota High School ranks with its final pick of the fourth round, claiming Oliver, a hard-working 6-3, 184-pound center. The native of Grand Forks, N.D., posted 14 points (4g-10a) in eight games for the Roseau Rams before finishing the 2008-09 season with Fargo of the USHL. A Minnesota High School State Champion as a sophomore, Oliver has committed to St. Cloud State (WCHA) for the 2009-10 season.
In the fifth round, Nashville chose to keep one of its picks, selecting another “character” player in Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) winger Gabriel Bourque (132nd overall), while trading its other pick to Tampa Bay for a fifth rounder in the 2010 draft. Bourque, a speedy, 5-9, 183-pound energy player, compares favorably to veteran Predator Scott Nichol. The Rimouski, Que., native averaged a point-per-game in 2008-09, ranking third on the Drakkar in points (61), goals (22) and assists (39).
The Preds closed out the 2009 Entry Draft by using one of their seventh rounders, while trading away the other. With its final pick 192nd overall, Nashville selected University of New Hamphire-bound center Cam Reid. The 6-2, 185 pound native of Delta, B.C., was unranked by Central Scouting after posting 40 points (12g-28a) in 58 games with Westside and Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey League. Nashville traded the 202nd pick to St. Louis in exchange for the Blues’ seventh rounder in 2010.
The Nashville Predators’ top prospects, including several of this year’s picks, are expected to participate in the club’s 2009 Developmental Camp, officially opening on Tuesday, July 7 at Centennial Sportsplex with fitness testing. The first of three on-ice sessions is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 8.