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Three UND recruits have taken different paths to potential late-round selections

Massimo Rizzo Penticton Vees. Jack Murray / Penticton Vees
Penticton Vees forward Massimo Rizzo skates between two defenders in a game this season. Jack Murray / Penticton Vees

All three are in the same boat.

Defenseman Luke Bast and forwards Massimo Rizzo and Brendan Budy -- players slated to join UND in the fall of 2020 -- are in that awkward spot heading into this weekend's NHL Draft in Vancouver's Rogers Arena.

They're all ranked in the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's final draft rankings and they all could wind up being picked Saturday afternoon, but it's also entirely possible that they all go undrafted.

None of them are currently planning on attending the event.

While all three are in the same situation, they've all arrived there on very different paths.

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Rizzo has been highly touted since he was 14 years old. In 2016, he was a first-round draft pick in the Western Hockey League, but instead opted to keep his college eligibility open.

Last season in Penticton, Rizzo struggled with injuries. He missed a big part of the first half of the year, then played through another injury at the end of the season. His numbers suffered -- he finished with 11 goals and 40 points in 37 games -- and a number of NHL scouts grew wary.

Because of the second injury, Rizzo is opting to stay in junior hockey for one more season before joining UND.

"The best thing for him to do is to take another year in juniors, and that's what he's doing," an NHL scout said.

In a sense, Budy is doing the same thing -- taking an extra year.

After arriving in college hockey as one of the youngest players in the country and struggling to make the lineup on NCAA Frozen Four-bound Denver this fall, Budy decided to go back to juniors for the second half of the season.

Playing with the Tri-City Storm, Budy rediscovered his offensive game, putting up 31 points in 31 games. The 5-foot-10, 179-pound winger from Langley, B.C., re-opened his recruiting and committed to UND .

Budy was originally draft eligible last season but was passed over. Now, with a great second half of the season behind him in Tri-City, he has another shot to go this weekend.

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"He had a good year with Tri-City," an NHL scout told the Herald. "He's a good playmaker and quick in tight. He can be an offensive guy -- might be provide secondary offense in the NCHC."

Bast, the younger brother of UND defenseman Gabe Bast, made a late charge onto the radar of NHL scouts this season.

He had an outstanding performance in the World Junior A Challenge in front of numerous scouts, then backed it up by helping his Brooks Bandits to a Canadian Junior A national championship.

For a smaller guy, he has the skating and he has the offense," an NHL scout told the Herald. "He competes hard. I don't want to say he's Troy Stecher, but he has some of the same attributes. I wouldn't say he's as dynamic. He's nowhere near where (Jacob) Bernard-Docker and (Jonny) Tychonick were at the same age. But then again, nobody thought that Stecher was going to be that elite."

LUKE BAST

Position: Defense.

Size: 5-9, 170.

Shoots: Left.

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Hometown: Red Deer, Alberta.

2018-19 team: Brooks (AJHL).

2018-19 stats: 45 games, 7 goals, 28 assists, 35 points.

2019-20 team: Waterloo (USHL).

Herald draft projection: 6th round-undrafted.

Central Scouting rank: 137 (North American skater).

An NHL scout says: "For a smaller guy, he has the skating and he has the offense. He competes hard. I don't want to say he's Troy Stecher, but he has some of the same attributes. I wouldn't say he's as dynamic. He's nowhere near where (Jacob) Bernard-Docker and (Jonny) Tychonick were at the same age. But then again, nobody thought that Stecher was going to be that elite."

MASSIMO RIZZO

Position: Center/left wing.

Size: 5-10, 180.

Shoots: Left.

Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.

2018-19 team: Penticton (BCHL).

2018-19 stats: 37 games, 11 goals, 29 assists, 40 points.

2019-20 team: Penticton (BCHL).

Herald draft projection: 6th round-undrafted.

Central Scouting rank: 84 (North American skater).

An NHL scout says: "He looks like he should be good, but he doesn't produce enough when he's on the ice. The best thing for him to do is to take another year in juniors, and that's what he's doing."

BRENDAN BUDY

Position: Center/wing.

Size: 5-10, 179.

Shoots: Left.

Hometown: Langley, B.C.

2018-19 teams: University of Denver/Tri-City Storm (USHL).

2018-19 stats: 31 games, 11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points in USHL.

2019-20 team: Tri-City (USHL).

Herald draft projection: 7th round-undrafted.

Central Scouting rank: 155 (North American skater).

An NHL scout says: "He had a good year with Tri-City. He's a good playmaker and quick in tight. He can be an offensive guy -- might be provide secondary offense in the NCHC."

LukeBastBrooksBandits.jpg
UND recruit Luke Bast of the Brooks (Alta.) Bandits skates with the puck during a game this season.

LukeBastBrooksBandits.jpg
UND recruit Luke Bast of the Brooks (Alta.) Bandits skates with the puck during a game this season.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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