Perhaps looking to mimic the New Jersey Devils' first round choice last year in Pavel Zacha, Vojtech Budik is a defensemen born and raised in the Czech Republic system who came over to play a year in the Canadian juniors before entering the draft. Before this past season, Budik spent his entire career playing for HC Pardubice in the Czech Republic, most recently playing for their under 20 team in 2014-15. Then, he decided to get a year of experience in the North American leagues before entering the draft, playing this past season for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. I mean hey, the jump seemed to have worked nicely for Zacha, maybe it will for Budik too. Who knows?
Unlike Zacha, however, Budik is a defenseman who does not project to be a top first round talent. Instead, Central Scouting has him as the 90th ranked North American skater heading into the draft. He was, however, ranked 61st at the midterm, so he did drop quite significantly over the last couple months. He has ok size currently for his junior team, with Elite Prospects weighing him in at 185 pounds to go along with his 6'1" frame, but he will need to play at a bigger size in the NHL. Given his ranking, he most likely projects as a 4th round talent, although some predict an earlier pick for him. The Devils have two fourth round picks this year thanks to the Lee Stempniak trade; will they look to spend one of those picks on Budik?
Who is Vojtech Budik?
Vojtech's numbers are somewhat interesting, and perhaps telling. Most obviously, he is clearly not a pure offensive defenseman. This past year with Prince Albert, he managed a measly 3 goals and 13 assists in 70 games played. Those are the hallmark numbers of a defensive defenseman.
However, the interesting part has to do with the trend he seemed to be setting in his home country. Budik would produce poor offensive numbers when first entering a higher level of play, then once he became adept at that group level, he would score well, then would be bumped up to a higher level of hockey where he would stop producing points. So for example, in 2013-14 Budik produced 17 points in 13 games for his U16 club, which are good numbers. Then he was promoted to the U18 club where he only got 9 points in 30 games. The following year, 2014-15, he had 12 points in 12 games at the U18 level. He had improved to the point where he was producing offensively, so he was bumped up to U20, where he only had 5 points in 19 games. Then he made the jump to the WHL, where he did not score. So it would be interesting to see his numbers after next season if he plays another full slate in the WHL. He has previously shown an ability to produce some points when he becomes more acclimated to better competition. Will he do that next year for Prince Albert? I'm sure NHL teams would love to know that.
Despite all that, however, I would not expect Budik to develop into a true offensive defenseman. If the scouts truly expected him to be a point producer, he would be a higher ranked prospect. Of his 10 assists for Prince Albert, only 3 were actually primary assists. That makes his poor offensive numbers this year look even worse.
He is ranked where he is, however, because of his defense. Prince Albert was a playoff team, going 38-26-7 in the regular season, but they were dropped in the first round of the WHL playoffs pretty handily by the Moose Jaw Warriors, so it is not like they were a championship contending team like Kelowna or Seattle or Brandon. In fact, Prince Albert was a negative team in terms of goal production, with a GF% of 49.66. However, Budik was a net positive in terms of goals. When on the ice during 5 on 5 play, he had a GF% of 53.26, which is definitively higher than the team average. So he may not have scored many points himself, but he was clearly much more of a driver of production when out on the ice than many of his teammates.
Budik does have plenty of international experience as well, playing for the Czechs in the International Juniors for both U17 and U18 for each of the last 3 years, and in the World Juniors each of the last two seasons. Combined, that's over 50 games of international experience which can only help his resume. He had some good tournaments too, producing 7 points in 6 games last year for the U17s.
What Others Have Said About Budik
Draft Site has a favorable review of Vojtech, projecting that he will be taken in the 3rd round, 63rd overall by Vancouver. For their report, Bill Placzek wrote, in full:
"Czech import to the dub who already displays terrific defensive zone tools and has some upside to add the attack component. He is a long strider with a effortless glide and deceptive explosion when it is needed. An agile defender with excellent footwork and defensive awareness. Displays high end hand-eye coordination, which helps in defending. Smartly boxes out attackers gap control; and positioning; spaces himself off the hip of the shooters and works from there. Makes outlet passes easily and can help his attack by moving in and applying pressure. A work in progress."
So despite the fact that he is a work in progress in Bill's eyes (and probably most considering his pre-draft ranking), he mentions several positives. He is good in the defensive zone, he is agile, has defensive awareness, and makes quality exit passes. Those are traits to build on, for sure.
After the Ivan Hlinka Tournament last summer, SBN College Hockey did a recap and Budik was mentioned. The writer, Chris Dilks, wrote back in August:
"One player that intrigued me was Czech defenseman Vojtech Budik. He's a decent sized defenseman and a tremendous skater. It was thrilling to watch any time he rushed the puck up the ice."
Sadly, that was written before he played a game for Prince Albert, but honestly, that is about all I can find in terms of actual written reports on him. Unless I am missing things, there simply just is not enough out there in terms of scouting reports on Budik yet. Usually there are a few different sites that have their own opinions, but those are silent at this point. Maybe it's too early before the draft, or maybe people are a lot less high on him after his season in Prince Albert, so instead they are focusing on scouting other skaters. The next best thing I can give are rankings, but even then apart from Central Scouting most people have really only done their top 30 rankings.
There was one released a little over a week ago, however, when Corey Pronman released his updated top 100 prospects for the draft. For each of the top 100, he gives a little blurb about each one. Sadly, Budik did not make the top 100. He was listed under the "Honorable Mentions" category along with 14 other guys. If the chart had been the top 115 I would have had some information, but alas it was not the case.
Finally, Craig Button's latest rankings list had Budik at #85 overall, which pops him right in the fourth round, but he does not say more about any skaters, he just ranks them. Hopefully as it gets closer to the draft, more will be released on the Czech defender.
A Little Video
Like with the prospect profiles, there are also not many videos out there specifically for Budik. If you are super interested, I would look up Prince Albert Raiders videos from this past season, which would be the most up to date and relevant videos to find.
What I did find are two videos from the 5 Nations Tournament he took place in during February of 2015 before he made the jump to the WHL. They are both 20 minute videos which cover every single shift in which he was out on the ice. They are something for sure, but they make for some tedious watching unless you are a hardcore scout. Here is the first one from 2/4/15:
Here is the second one from 2/7/15:
For someone with not a lot of information out there except for basic statistics, a minor amount of advanced statistics, and very few prospect profiles, it really is hard to come to a definitive conclusion on the Czech defenseman. If we are simply to take the word of the best profile I can find, from Bill Placzek at Draft Site, he would sound like a quality mid-round talent with good upside to become a regular NHL defenseman.
The truth, however, is probably less certain. There are a couple bits of information which are troubling. First, while his height is good at 6'1", he will need to play at a bigger weight if he wants to be an NHL player, especially if he is not a true offensive defenseman. In my opinion, defensive specialists need to have some size if they want to succeed. Next is the fact that he dropped significantly in Central Scouting's rankings from the midterm to the final. He was ranked as the 61st N.A. skater then, but now sits at #90. That is a precipitous drop, and it could indicate that scouts soured on his game once he got to the WHL. He may have shown promise in his homeland, but he was not able to keep the hype up over here.
Finally, simply the fact that there is not a lot out there about him is scary. Players who are highly touted, even mid-round players, tend to have information out there. Scouts write about them, as people who watch them want to share their knowledge. Videos are made about them. People notice that they are watching someone who could potentially be a NHL player one day. For example, when I profiled Blake Speers last year, he was projected as a 3rd round talent, but there was lots of information out there. People knew he was good. And I did that profile on May 9th last year, which was earlier than this profile. But with Budik, there is minimal out there. A couple videos from before he came to the Canadian juniors, and one positive outlook from a site that projects him to go in the 3rd round. But for that one projection, both Craig Button and Corey Pronman have him as a later round talent than that. So the hype is not there, and that is not a good thing.
So if I were totally honest, I would not be high on the Devils taking him at his projected position. I certainly would be happier with someone else in the 3rd round and perhaps even the fourth round too. Considering that there really is not that much out there on him at this point in time, however, it is hard to tell. I am pretty much basing that opinion on the drop in his ranking at CSS and from the overall lack of info out there.
What is your take on Vojtech Budik? For those of you who have seen him or know more information, can you post some information in the comments? That way, we all can perhaps learn a little more about him. Where do you think he will be drafted, and do you think the Devils should be looking defense in the middle rounds this year? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.