After seeing top defenseman Nate Schmidt depart a year early, Minnesota now loses its captain.
Zach Budish has signed an entry-level contract with the Nashville Predators Wednesday and will forgo his final year of eligibility. The redshirt junior forward, a second round pick of the Predators in 2009, finished fourth on the Gophers this season with 36 points.
Rumors of Budish signing were initially sparked Tuesday by teammate Erik Haula's tweet before being made official by the Predators and University 1 day later.
Budish came to the University of Minnesota on the heels of tearing his left ACL playing football as a senior at Edina (MN-HS). Despite that, he scored 17 points (7G-10A) in 37 games as a freshman. His sophomore season was cut short when Budish tore his right ACL in a moped accident, however, he came back the next year to score 35 points (12G-23A) as a part of Minnesota's top line.
This season, the 6'3", 214 lbs right winger wore the "C" following in the footsteps of Taylor Matson. He split time on the top two lines and was used in all situations. Budish used his size to create openings for smaller linemates Erik Haula and Sam Warning while occasionally providing a spark between Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau.
He hasn't been the offensive power forward that some were hoping for although his size and style of play suit well to adjusting to the pro level. Budish is more than capable of making an impact off the scoresheet.
Still, Zach scored 12 goals, including the game-tying one against Yale. It was Minnesota's final one, however, as the Gophers were upset in overtime 3-2 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
"We've got a veteran team, and with only one senior, we should have a group of guys coming back," Budish told the Minnesota Daily following the Yale loss. "I can't wait to play again in six months."
Just a week later that won't be the case.
You can follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.