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Hard To Leave For Bjugstad

Tuesday, 08.7.2012 / 9:00 AM ET / News
By Joseph Beguiristain  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Hard To Leave For Bjugstad
Nick Bjugstad skates with the puck in a game last season for University of Minnesota (University of Minnesota)

For Nick Bjugstad, the decision wasn’t easy.

Ever since the season ended for the University of Minnesota Gophers, he had to mull over the decision of whether to return for his junior season or turn pro and take a shot at making the Panthers out of training camp.

“It’s a tough [decision], especially since how the season ended last year,” Bjugstad said. “We got a lot of good players coming in at Minnesota [and] we got a lot of good players coming back so it’s a tough one. Obviously it’s a great organization and it’s been turned around.”

The forward has been a staple of the USA Under-20 team for the past couple of seasons. He credits the experience he gained from his first season playing in World Juniors in which he helped Team USA earn a bronze for his excellent season he just had for Minnesota.

“Two years ago, it was my first year in World Juniors, so I think that kind of helped me,” he said. “I had a rough start my freshman year and it gave me a little boost of confidence, we had a good tournament there; we won bronze. It just jump started me there and I kind of had some confidence because I realized it was a pretty good tournament with a lot of good players.”

That jump start has paid dividends for the Blaine, MN native. Last season, Bjugstad had better numbers for both the USA team and for Minnesota than the year prior. Bjugstad compiled 42 points (25 goals, 17 assists) in 40 games for Minnesota compared to the 20 points he had in just 29 games in his freshman season. He also had six points in six games for team USA in 2011-2012.

The Gophers lost to the eventual NCAA champion, Boston College in the Frozen Four. The heartbreak of losing while being so close to a championship as well as making the ability to earn his degree at the end of his Junior season pushed Bjugstad to stay another year in Minnesota.

"This is the right spot for me," said Bjugstad after making his decision back in mid-July. "I am going to be close to finishing my education and hopefully can accomplish the goal that I have had ever since I was little, which is winning a national championship. We are going to have a good team this year and hopefully get another chance at the national championship and make a run there. I feel I can develop here and become more of a leader on the team as well. Hopefully, I will have a good season."

You may have recognized the Bjugstad name before. Nick’s uncle, Scott played hockey for 13 seasons in numerous leagues, including an excellent career at the same school that his nephew now calls home. He played in 317 career games in the NHL and tallied 144 points.

“My uncle obviously had a great career, especially at Minnesota. He’s kind of put my name out there from the start, which is nice,” he explained. “It’s not too much pressure him being my uncle, I think it would be more pressure if it was like my dad or something.”

Bjugstad looks to his uncle for advice and tips on his game.

“My uncle is a good mentor for me and we talk quite a bit,” Bjugstad explained. “He’s always all over me saying I got to play confident. [He tells me to] think you’re the best player out there and make sure you’re confident within yourself.”

For Bjugstad, it's all about taking the right path in terms of his development as he hopes to become the player the Panthers were looking for when they selected him 19th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, a big center that can play a solid two way game but most importantly, fill the net.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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