Nick Bjugstad was drafted in the first round (19th overall) in 2010 by the Florida Panthers after completing his senior year at Blaine High School in Minnesota. He had won Minnesota’s “Mr. Hockey” award that same year as the top High School player that season. At 6’6, 220lbs he still has some growing to do to fill out his frame and could look to enter the NHL one day around 240+lbs, making it hard on competition night in and night out.
Bjugstad had committed to the University of Minnesota, where he hoped to compete for a National Championship with the men’s hockey team prior to being drafted into the NHL . His freshman season with the team would be cut short due to injuries, but in just 29 games he scored 8g and 12a for 20 points while earning 51pim. His next season would see his numbers improve as he was more accustomed to the college level and had gained some size during the off-season.
In 40 games with the Gophers in 2011-2012, Bjugstad would record 25g, 17a for 42 points and dropping his penalty minutes to just 28 in his sophomore year. The Gophers would travel to Tampa for the Frozen Four tournament looking to win a National Championship but would be eliminated by Boston College. The season was a success for Bjugstad and his team, but left a bitter feeling as they fell short after coming so close to a championship.
In July, Bjugstad attended the Florida Panthers prospect camp where he appeared to be ready for a jump into professional hockey with the Panthers. General Manager Dale Tallon stated that he would leave the decision up to Bjugstad and wouldn’t attempt to sway him in any way, but stated he would love to have him on the team this season. Bjugstad thought for a few weeks before making his decision to return to Minnesota for his junior year and season, where he’s working to possibly graduate early and move on to professional hockey. Ultimately, his decision came down to loyalty to the team he committed to originally, as well as his dream of winning a national championship with them.
Entering the 2012-2013 season which could be his last at the Collegiate level, Bjugstad and the UM Gophers are ranked #1 Nationally by several sports outlets. One of which has them tied with Boston College, the team that had eliminated them just last season as the top ranked school in the nation.
Once Bjugstad moves on to the Panthers organization, they’ll be getting a great young player who already has a winning mentality as they look to build a future contender around it’s prospects. Using Bjugstad’s size along with the skill and finesse of Jonathan Huberdeau could make for a very dangerous top line in Florida in the future and leave management salivating at the thought.
Nick Bjugstad highlights from the 2011-2012 season.
Nick Bjugstad interview during Florida Panthers Prospect Camp in July.