25-Year-Old Center – Florida Panthers
Nick Bjugstad Contract Information:
Signed six-year, $24.6 contract extension with the Panthers in December 2014.
Bjugstad finished with a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 7-2 win over the Senators.
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Nick Bjugstad: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Bjugstad took a step back last season, managing nine fewer goals than the year before en route to a pedestrian 34 points in 67 games. While heís still just 24 years old, the 6-foot-6 centerman was significantly outplayed by a pair of even younger pivots on his own team in Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck. Bjugstadís 13 power-play goals over the past two campaigns indicate that heís dangerous with the man advantage, but he could struggle at even strength, as heís unlikely to supplant either Barkov or Trocheck on the top two lines and remains a work in progress defensively. If he canít win a bigger role, itís hard to expect more than about 40 points.
Bjugstad was the top goal scorer on the Panthers in 2014-15, despite being shut down in late March with a back injury that required surgery. The 72 games were enough for Bjugstad to come through with a break out, scoring 24 goals and adding 19 assists while manning the Cats' top line and power-play unit. With the man advantage, Bjugstad was particularly effective, scoring a team-high seven goals and adding five assists. The power forward (heís listed at 6-foot-6 and 218 pounds) has quickly learned to use his size like Kyle Okposo -- another former Minnesota Golden Gopher -- to get to the net and light the lamp. If his recovery from the back procedure is on schedule, Bjugstad should slot back as a center man in the teamís top six and continue to build on the production he supplied last season.
Would you have guessed that Bjugstad was Panthers' leading scorer in 2013-14? The fact he had only 38 points makes it a difficult trivia question to get right, but don't dismiss the young pivot -- Bjugstad put up strong shot (185) and hit (117) totals in addition to a respectable point total for a 22-year-old in his first full season. The Panthers have improved their depth, which should benefit Bjugstad. With a small improvement in his shot total and shooting percentage, Bjugstadís production could climb nicely. He could be a sneaky sleeper in fantasy leagues this year, as South Florida sometimes gets overlooked for talent.
Bjugstad played 11 games with the Panthers after his season ended at the University of Minnesota, but managed to notch just one goal. The Panthers are relying on the 19th overall pick from the 2010 draft to turn into the hulking power forward he's supposed to be this season, but only time will tell if he's worth fantasy consideration. If his production doesn't pick up, he doesn't warrant a second glance, but his numbers with the Gophers (21/15/36 in 40 games last year) suggest that he has the potential to be the top-line center of the future in Sunrise, Florida.
Florida scooped up Bjugstad, one of the best American prospects in the 2010 NHL Entry draft, with their 19th overall pick. At 18 years young, this kid has a quick motor strapped to his feet and his 6-4 frame is a warning for the opposition to get out of his way or pay the price. However, the highest competition he's dealt with so far are high school skaters. Bjugstad is headed for much greater competition at the University of Minnesota in 2010-11.