The Florida Panthers are coming off of an absolutely miserable, and depending on where you stand, the offseason wasn’t much better. They didn’t add much of anything in free agency or on the trade market, but they do have a nice chunk of young talent that will be interesting to watch this season.
Right at the top of all of that is Nick Bjugstad. He made his way to South Beach late in the season last year, coming up after his season with the University of Minnesota. The results weren’t terribly impressive, but the potential is there for Bjugstad as a top six center for this club.
Bjugstad appeared in 11 games for the Panthers towards the end of the year, posting just a single goal. He only managed 17 shots across those 11 games, finished with a minus-8 rating, and won only 40 percent of his draws. With the season the Cats had last year, though, no one expected him to come in and star.
As a center for a team that is in need of a couple of big time pivots, Bjugstad has the capability to lock himself in as a top six center for the Panthers. His upside is that of a top line center, as he’s strong enough at both ends of the ice to make an impact. He has incredible size, making him even more effective.
At 6’6″, Bjugstad is incredibly tough to get off the puck. He’s very intelligent as well, making him a potentially excellent playmaker in the middle. If he could win a faceoff, he’d be even more dangerous. If the wings in Florida are healthy this season, he will have offensive talent in each side. How the lineup shakes out will be interesting to watch, but if he gets support on each side, he could be in for a big rookie season.