Nashville Predators prospects Zach Budish and Charles-Olivier Roussel were drafted with back-to-back second-round picks in 2009. The Predators had high hopes for both of them coming out of the draft, feeling they got first-round value at Nos. 41 and 42 overall. However, other members of that 2009 draft class have already made their presence known in the NHL.
Budish and Roussel are looking to make waves in the organization this season. Both admit the success of that draft class is cause for motivation.
“It is exciting to see guys that were in your draft class and you sat with in this same camp a couple years back that are not only playing in the NHL but doing very well. It’s definitely a motivating factor,” Budish said.
“It’s always fun to see guys that were drafted in the same draft play in the NHL. That just shows that I can play, too, and is just a good confidence-booster,” Roussel added.
Differing from the likes of Ryan Ellis, Taylor Beck, Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm and Gabriel Bourque – all of whom have NHL experience – Budish and Roussel have each had obstacles along the way in their trek to the pros.
Budish’s story is well-documented. He tore both of his ACLs – one before being drafted, one after. Before his first ACL injury, Budish was projected to be a first-round pick. With two consecutive healthy seasons under his belt – a big confidence-booster for him – he has high sights set on playing a big role in Milwaukee this season.
Budish posted 36 points in 40 games during his recently-completed junior season at University of Minnesota. After deciding to leave college for the pros last spring, Budish got a taste of AHL hockey during Milwaukee’s late-season playoff push.
“I think it was great, just to get out there and get a feel for things,” Budish said. “It helps me build my confidence coming into training camp and into next season, my first full pro season.”
The injuries built roadblocks for Budish’s road to where he is now, but the 6-foot-3 power forward is back on track. He feels his skating is the area where he needs to improve the most before the season starts.
“This week is a lot of power skating and skating instruction, so I can work on different things, whether it’s my knee bend or explosiveness,” he said. “Skating is always the question mark for bigger guys for the most part, so I just need to keep on improving.”
Selected one pick behind Budish in 2009, Roussel feels he has something to prove this season. Despite only having one pro season in the books, this will be the final year of Roussel’s entry-level contract.
“I want to prove to [the organization] that I can play at the NHL level. I’m going to come to training camp to try and make the team. We’ll see from there,” he said.
“We expect him to take another step,” Predators chief amateur scout Jeff Kealty said of Roussel. “It’s a long-term thing with him. Everybody’s different, but the big part of it is to continue to make progress. Next year will be a big step for him. [He] got his first year under his belt and now it’s time to take it to the next level.”
After spending five seasons in the QMJHL, Roussel played 57 games last season split between the ECHL and AHL, tallying a total of 18 points in the process. He mentioned that he took a step back a few years ago, which provided some adversity for him.
“I’ve lived it when nothing goes well or nothing goes right. I’ve been down on myself without confidence, so I know what it is like and I know what to do to not go back there,” he said. “That’s been the greatest learning [experience] for me.”
Budish and Roussel are attending their fifth development camp this week. With each having room to improve their respective games, neither one has grown tired of this annual camp in Nashville.
“Every year brings something different, whether it’s new training or new information to learn,” Budish said. “With it being my fifth camp it’s some of the stuff I’ve been through before, so it’s nice to know what to expect on the track and on the ice.”
“The Preds have done a great job of renewing stuff, bringing in new stuff … it’s always entertaining with the new guys, new faces,” Roussel said. “I don’t think you can ever come here too much. It’s always a blast.”
Ellis, Beck, Smith, Ekholm and Bourque have combined for 276 NHL games over the last two seasons. Those five have helped the 2009 draft class tie for the most players the Predators have ever had reach the NHL in Nashville from a specific draft class (2000 being the other).
If Budish and Roussel continue their progression, 2009 could go down as the Predators’ best and deepest draft class ever.
“Any time you can add that many types of players to your team, as a scouting staff that’s our job. … It looks like we did some good work that year. We had a lot of picks and the draft fell well for us,” Kealty said. “A lot of guys are here already and hopefully there’s a couple more still to come here.”