College Hockey:
Minnesota loses two more to pros as Bjugstad, Budish sign

Minnesota has lost two more players who would have been seniors next season.

Nick Bjugstad and Zach Budish have given up their senior season with the Golden Gophers to sign professional deals on Wednesday.

That comes after defenseman Nate Schmidt signed with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

Bjugstad signed with the Florida Panthers, who picked him 19th overall in 2010. He had 54 goals and 98 points in 109 games with Minnesota and was a second-team All-American in 2012.

“Nick is certainly ready to take his game to the next level,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said in a news release. “We appreciate his loyalty and dedication to Gopher hockey. He has grown a lot in his three seasons with the program, and he clearly has a bright future ahead of him.”

Budish, a second-round selection by the Nashville Predators in 2009, signed an amateur tryout deal and will go to the team’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

He had 35 goals and 94 points in 129 games with the Gophers.

“Zach has had to overcome two major knee surgeries in the last five years to become one of the best power forwards in college hockey,” Lucia said. “He played a pivotal role on our top two lines and was a great leader on and off the ice. Although he could have returned, he will graduate this spring and will have the chance to begin his pro career with Nashville. I want to thank Zach for all he did for Gopher hockey the last four years.”

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  • sivgopher

    If we lose haula we r in trouble but he will probably sign in be traded

    • http://twitter.com/Butterz07 Aaron P. Gillespie

      ha…good luck next year.

      • goldy


      • Mike Loween

        We will just reload!

      • jmsptrk

        still returning two 20pt scorers (isackson & warning), a 30pt scorer (condon), a 40 pt scorer (rau) & maybe even a 50pt scorer (haula).

        don’t worry about little ‘ol us.

        • siouxpthr

          I still think Rau could leave this year…

          • jmsptrk

            it’s definitely a possibility. hopefully he realizes he could really use another year at school to add some size. (and by size, I mean strength.)


    That sucks, but what do you do, pass on the top players?

    • Anti-NCAA

      You don’t, but with NHL contracts in the millions how does a top rated draft pick in the NCAA pass up the opportunity? As much as I despise the Goofers, I know what exiting talent does to the possibility of a future powerhouse.

      When one, or three leave, you can expect that even more will jump at the chance if their own championship chances seemed diminished. It’s tough to see it happen over and over.

      • ExiledGopher

        I believe you are UND fan (sorry if I’m wrong). Know UND is losing a lot of seniors — what about underclassmen in doubt. Haven’t seen any leave yet, but are any considering it.

        How sad — still more interested in what is happening at UND then any Big Ten hockey team (Wisconsin excluded). Next year will not be the same.

        • sivgopher

          Rocco maybe

  • ExiledGopher

    Still think Budish hurts more than Bjugstad (he was all but gone) . Budish would have been a good leader next year —- not afraid to work in front of the net, play physical, etc.

    Bjugstad was better his freshman and sophomore years.

    • jmsptrk

      no doubt. everyone knew bjugstad & schmidt were gone. but i thought (hoped) there might be a chance budish & haula would return. bjustad is a loss, but sadly, he wasn’t much of a leader. which makes me even more bummed at the loss of budish—since he was. schmidt hurts because none of the young guys are that polished yet. but….reilly & marshall (last play of the season not withstanding for marshall [ugh]) looked good at the end of the year. both are slick w/the puck—either could end up being another classic minnesota-style puck-moving d-man. a few less big names next year, but perhaps more balance if a few young guys step up. and…still returning lots of firepower w/two 20pt scorers (warning & isackson), a 30pt scorer (condon), a 40 pt scorer (rau) & maybe even a 50pt scorer (haula). not too shabby.

      • reardensteel

        Did you see my Fanpost on Daily Gopher?

        I’m just sick of have teams loaded with freshmen and sophomores, and a dearth of strong leadership in the senior class.

        • jmsptrk

          agreed. I read daily gopher, but not sure I saw your post. (reply w/a link if you wouldn’t mind.)

          anyway….i hear you. but man, that’s a tough thing to try and balance. you want the best players, but you also want kids to stay for 4 if you can. so the trick seems to be to get mostly solid players who will stick 4 years and develop, instead of the studs. but you can’t turn down a kid like bjugstad. not sure I have a good solution.

          seems like a recruiting problem that lucia hasn’t quite cracked. but then…maybe he has and the changes are just now taking hold. after all, he has brought in players I would put in that group (good players who have developed) such as condon, haula, alt, ambroz.

          regardless, i’m with you….johnny pohl, jordan leopold, grant potulny. enough said.

          • reardensteel

            Tried to reply with a link, but apparently links require moderator review. Might show up in a few, or not at all.
            Anyway, just look at the Fanposts; it’s one of the most recent ones.

          • jmsptrk

            the link showed up. great post. funny….
            I remember having a conversation with my brother about that. we knew the player would be missing the most was Taylor Matson, hands down.

    • reardensteel

      I think Condon will probably be captain next year if he stays.

      Bjugstad was never a great leader. If he had been, I think we would have seen a much more consistent team this year.

      If we don’t lose any more (fingers crossed on Haula) seniors, we, may have a team much more like last year’s, which would probably be better than this year, even without the talent that’s departed.

      • MikeE

        I agree. I like Condan as a captain, I also could see Serratore as a candidate because that guy works his butt off every shift. Also Rau (I think he is certain to stay…imo) has that energy as well. Maybe without the high profile “flight risks” we could get back that grit and heart we saw so much last year.

        • reardensteel

          Rau has a tendency to lose his cool, though.
          He takes a lot of “Unsportsman-like Conduct” penalties.

          • MikeE

            Good point. He has the spark and work ethic, but now that I think more about it, he did lose his his cool time to time and also he tried to do his best Robbie Earl impression a little too often….so yeah, you’re right, not captain material. But you gotta love his spirit! I’m still on the Serratore bandwagon for either a “C” or “A”. He and Condon would be good leaders.

    • patrickolson

      yeah, Bjugstad had Okposo/Johnson syndrome this year. It was really disappointing to see. It not for the obvious, you would never know he was one of the best (when trying) players in college hockey.

  • Jim Bleth

    It’s funny for all the talk you hear of the ECAC lovers on here, usually never hear about their players leaving early!

    • Gooferbroke

      you are the only person who commented on the ECAC out of everyone. You’re paranoid. You need to focus on your team. No one else. Not a conference that hasn’t won since 1989. You really need to get your medications adjusted. Seemed like no problem for UMD a couple of years ago. Minn. made it to the final four last year. Let the intelligent people talk and just nod your head short man

      • jmsptrk

        hahahaha :)

  • brent bangs mns

    Calling Budish a senior “next season” is a bit misleading. Yes, in terms of eligibility he would have been, but considering he’s finishing his degree this spring, what the hell is the point of him returning?

  • reardensteel

    I think the 4-year limit on signing rights is a big part of the problem.

    The players get drafted out of high school, then play juniors for a year, then have only three years left until their rights expire.
    Well, clearly then, these NHL teams apply a tremendous amount of pressure on them to sign so they don’t become free agents.

    That system just doesn’t do college hockey any favors.

  • KilledbyDeath

    If I had to play in the Big Ten Conference I’d leave too.

  • MikeE

    Spot on story. I’ve been saying the same thing for a long time. We need a core of four year character guys. Guys who truly want to wear that “M” on their chest. We had them in the back to back years. But you still can’t pass on that “special” player. I do not envy coach Lucia’s position.

  • reardensteel

    Ever notice coaches never say anything negative about these departing players?
    Like, “We’re really disappointed he’s made this decision.”

    I guess there’s not point in criticizing the player since the decision can’t be undone.
    And I guess it would be kind of immature.

    But still, some of these coaches must be pretty upset, I would think.

  • EliBlue

    Yale fan here and I have to say that until we got Fios, I didn’t see much of Minnesota, but what I did had me thinking they deserved the #1 ranking for much of the year. What an amazingly talented program year in and year out. I hope you Gopher fans realize that to a non-WCHA fan, your program looks amazing! When Yale had Chris Higgins, a first-round draft choice of Montreal before his freshman year, a lot of us realized he would probably leave early because his career trajectory was like nothing we saw before or after. When he left after his sophomore year, it really made an impact on the team so I can relate somewhat. The thing I noticed about the WCHA first-rounders is that a lot of your players seem to be 2-3 years younger than, say, the kids at the Ivy League schools. It seems like they Ivy players enter after a couple of years of prep school. Don’t know if that means anything. I do think though that it’s not like all of these Gopher players left after their freshman or sophomore seasons. There is a big difference between leaving after one year and not returning for your last year. Allain has recruited a certain style of team for Yale, but you could see last year that the team didn’t have the horses. Minnesota and North Dakota get the horses every year.

    • jmsptrk

      You’ve pretty much nailed it. It’s a tough balancing act to get a group of kids that will stick together and become something great. I definitely don’t envy these coach’s job when it comes to recruiting. Don’t know how you can plan a roster when kids bolt so early. And as a Gopher fan, I can say it’s definitely a blessing and (to a much less degree) a curse….at least when you see the talent that leaves early and are left to wonder what could have been. The one thing that Minnesota has started to do recently under Lucia is roster less true freshman and more guys w/1-2 years of juniors. It helps a lot when you’re playing against, say, UND who rosters more Canadian kids w/junior experience. It’s a tricky situation though. College hockey play has improved so much over the last decade that, sadly, it has become it’s own worst enemy (at least in terms of retaining talent). The level of play is such that more and more kids who are playing in or committed to the college game are getting drafted (instead of juniors–the traditional pipeline to the pros), which means they’ll eventually be pressured to leave (early) by the teams that draft them. But it’s not like you can pass on a player like Bjugstad because he probably won’t stay for 4 years. As a coach, I guess they just have to plan on 2-3 as the new norm for guys like that. Sucks, but what can you do? Oh well…such is life.

      • EliBlue

        It’s like same planet different rinks in terms of the challenges of a major vs. an Ivy! There is one thing that I love about Allain and that’s he puts freshmen in right away. It’s both the good and the bad of having maybe 23 players on your roster. You don’t have many spare parts. One difference too between a smaller program and say a UND or a UMinn is the World Juniors. Inevitably, the roster for the Under 20 team is dominated by the best kids, usually from the major programs, and they get to play against the other best kids in the world. I tend to think of that as a good thing because it gets kids high level experience. But maybe that disrupts a team. I don’t know

        • jmsptrk

          very true. having that talent level is obviously a good thing. you’ll get no argument here. but world juniors do sometimes disrupt the season. hate to see it when the team is on a role, playing well, and then all of a sudden….coach has to start mixing lines again, or D pairings, because 3-4 kids are at world juniors. but it is a great experience–especially for the kids–against the world’s best, so you’d have to imagine it helps both player and team grow (once they return).

          and it also means giving kids ice time that wouldn’t normally see much with the world junior kids around. so it can grow your bench as well.

  • uknownothing

    Looks like it is Wisconsin’s conference to lose next year.

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