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Bjugstad Readies For His First Full Pro Season

Center looks to take strides after seeing action at end of last season with Panthers.

Thursday, 08.8.2013 / 10:45 AM ET / News
By Tyler Moseley  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Bjugstad Readies For His First Full Pro Season

Forward Nick Bjugstad takes a shot on goal against the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden (Getty Images)

Nick Bjugstad had a remarkable career at the University of Minnesota but now he’s ready to prove himself in his first full NHL season. 

Looking back it is crazy to think that just three years ago the Panthers selected the 6-6 220 lb Gopher product with the 19th overall in the first round in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Now he is knocking on the door and the Panthers envision him as someone who could be another face of the franchise for a number of years. The Blaine, MN native could not have been more excited to be drafted in the first round.

“It was a whirlwind and I didn’t really know where I was going to go but it was great to have my family in Los Angeles,” said Bjugstad, reflecting at July’s Development Camp. “But I had a feeling it was Florida because of the meetings we had.”

Bjugstad has been one of the top college goal scorers the last two years, posting 25 and 21 goals respectively over that span. Two years ago his efforts helped the Gophers get all the way to the Frozen Four before they lost to the eventual champions of Boston College. 

“Playing in the Frozen Four was one of the biggest moments in my college career,” said Bjugstad. “We didn’t end up winning the whole thing but it was a fun experience.” 

Despite being only 20-years old Bjugstad has had plenty of experience playing for Minnesota and playing in the World Championships. When Bjugstad played in the World Championships he really took a lot from the tournament. 

“It was a little different style than the NHL or college,” said Bjugstad. “It’s a little eye opening but it was a good experience for me.”

Bjugstad has shown that he has learned from plenty of good players such as his uncle Scott Bjugstad. Scott Bjugstad played in the NHL for 13 seasons, and when Bjugstad was at the World Championships he also learned a lot from current Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Stastny and St Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie. Stastny and Oshie are both established NHL players that were teammates of Bjugstad’s during this past summer’s World Championships.  

Going back to his college experience, after Bjugstad finished his junior season in Minnesota, he felt that it was time to take his game to the NHL. When Bjugstad entered the NHL he was not surprised by the play but realized how different it was. 

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Someone who made sure that Bjugstad got a handle on the NHL was center Shawn Matthias because he knew the situation Bjugstad was in. Much like Bjugstad, Matthias came into the NHL as a young 20-year-old player too.

“He was kind of in the same position because he was 19 or 20 when he played his first few games so he kind of showed me the ropes and talked me through it,” said Bjugstad. “It was nice having guys like that and it helped me feel comfortable.”

Playing in 11 games with Florida, Bjugstad was able to record his first career NHL goal in the season finale victory over in-state rival Tampa Bay.

“It took me a while but it was pretty surreal,” said Bjugstad. “I don’t really remember it. It was kind of a whirlwind, it was awesome. I was pumped…it was a really cool experience.”

Bjugstad noticed that there was a significant difference between not just in the level of play but how few mistakes were made.

“There is a lot more structure,” said Bjugstad. “Guys are in the right spot, and there is a lot less room for errors. You’re playing against the best players in the world so there is less room to mess up and you got to be on your ‘A’ game every shift.”

After losing a player such as Stephen Weiss, players like Bjugstad are waiting to seize an opportunity to play with Florida for the whole season. Bjugstad takes on a lot of responsibility.  

He has been working hard throughout the offseason to contribute even more to the Panthers next season. 

“I’ve been down at the University (Minnesota) and a lot of alumni skate there,” said Bjugstad. “We get good skates in. I just train as hard as I can so I’m ready for training camp (in September).”

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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