2018-19 was a strange season for Langley Rivermen forward Brendan Budy. He had just wrapped up his two seasons in the BCHL and was starting his college career at the University of Denver. After six games with the Pioneers, it was clear to him that things weren’t working out the way he had hoped, so he decided a change was necessary.
“I’m more of a skilled player who’s used to playing a top-six role and in Denver I was only playing here and there, mostly bottom-six minutes,” he said. “I was a true freshman and the youngest player there, so I thought, maybe instead of staying here and not knowing what was going to happen, I could try other options and end up somewhere where I knew I’d be able to play a role that I’m used to playing.”
That new situation he was searching for ended up being in the USHL where he finished out the season with Tri-City Storm and ended up averaging a point per game with 31 in 31 contests.
After an offseason full of rumours and speculation on where he would play – his WHL rights were traded to the Vancouver Giants, he was eligible to return to the USHL for a second season – his career ended up coming full circle as he returned to Langley for a second stint in the BCHL with his hometown Rivermen.
Budy spent his early years playing for the Langley Minor Hockey Association, a place where he was able to develop his hockey skills and make some friends that would end up being his teammates again down the road.
“It was really good experience,” he said. “We had a bunch of good players there. A few players ended up playing in the BCHL and a couple of them are actually on my team right now.”
Those players he’s referring to are Rivermen goalie Braedon Fleming who is in his fourth year with the team, and Jonathan Stein, who was acquired by Langley in a trade this past offseason. Budy also played minor hockey with former Rivermen captain Alec Capstick who is now in his freshman season at the University of Miami-Ohio.
In those early days, like most hockey players, he relied a lot on his parents for advice and to make sure he had every opportunity to succeed.
“My dad Tim played hockey himself,” said Budy. “He played at Colorado College, so he knows what it’s like to be a hockey player. Him and my mom were always there for me and always supported me on whatever decisions I’ve made throughout my hockey career. They’ve been there every step of the way.”
Heading into his second year of Bantam hockey, Budy ended up at the Delta Hockey Academy where he was coached by Jaroslav ‘Yogi’ Svejkovsky. A former first-round pick of the Washington Capitals and someone who played four NHL seasons in the late ’90s, Svejkovsky had a strong influence on Budy as a young hockey player.
“He was obviously a really good player himself and he’s an unreal coach,” said Budy. “He taught us a lot. He was able to teach us a lot of skills with the puck, but he was also really good at bringing the team together.”
After only two years at the Delta Academy, Budy moved on to the BCHL where he debuted with his hometown team at the age of 16 and ended up finishing tied for sixth in rookie scoring with 45 points in 56 games.
“That’s a young age to be playing junior hockey,” he said. “I had to go to school and play hockey at the same time, so it was nice that I was able to live at home, especially since my house is only five minutes from the rink. My mom used to drive me to school and then made sure I got to the rink on time. To be able to be fed home-cooked meals, especially being a young kid, it was a nice feeling.”
Budy had another strong year in his second season in the league, leading the Rivermen in scoring with 56 points, but the highlight of that season came outside of the BCHL. That year, he was selected to play for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge (WJAC) and ended up winning a gold medal, downing the United States in the championship game.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said. “It was a pretty long process, going through tryouts and then finally getting our team together, but it ended up being awesome. We had an unreal group of guys.
“Just getting to be a part of a Canada vs. USA game, with that huge rivalry, and us able to win, it was a really special moment.”
So far this year, Budy has picked up right where he left off the last time he was in the league. The 19-year-old is tied for third in BCHL scoring with 38 points in 28 games, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would be invited back to Team Canada West’s selection camp this year which gets underway Dec. 1.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Even though I’ve been on the team before, you’ve still got to go there and show them what you’ve got. I’m very excited to try and work toward winning another gold medal.”
Despite how things ended for him in Denver last year, Budy still views his time there as a learning experience that has helped him this season and will also help him down the road.
“You’re playing against grown men and a bunch of players who will be playing in the NHL in a couple years,” he said. “It shows you what the speed of the next level is like and what you need to do to be a really good player in that league. That stuff helped a lot, to kind of know what I need to do to be a really good player in college.”
After his departure from Denver, it didn’t take long for another NCAA program to come calling. After his season in the USHL, he announced his commitment to the University of North Dakota for 2020-21.
“I really connected well with the coaches there,” said Budy. “We got really close and talked a lot about what happened in Denver. No one I talked to had anything bad to say about North Dakota. Everyone was just so positive about how good the coaching is there and how nice and honest they are to you. I just developed a really good relationship with them over a couple months. Obviously, the hockey program there, the history speaks for itself. They’ve had a lot of winning teams and have produced a lot of good NHL players.”
Ultimately, that was the most important factor for Budy when it came to deciding to return to the BCHL this season. Despite having other options, it was imperative for him to keep his college eligibility since he viewed that as the best path for him to take to reach his goals.
“At the end of the day, for myself, going to college and especially to a school like North Dakota, was the best option for me,” he said. “My goal is to make the NHL and I know that college will be the best way to help me get there. You get a couple extra years of development and I think that extra time never hurts.”