When you hear the phrase “Mr. Hockey”, the name Gordie Howe likely comes to mind for most of you. But in the scouting world, Mr. Hockey takes on a much different meaning. Each year, NHL Scouts and Division I coaches carefully select the most outstanding senior High School Hockey Player in the state of Minnesota. Past recipients of this prominent honor such as, Ryan McDonagh, Paul Martin, and Trent Klatt, have all established a name for themselves in the National Hockey League.
During the past two seasons, The Florida Panthers were determined to bring their very own Mr. Hockey winners into the mix when they selected Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau in back-to-back NHL entry drafts. Nick Bjugstad was selected 19th overall in the first round in 2010 and close friend and current teammate for the Minnesota Golden Gophers Kyle Rau was selected 91st overall the following year. Although they share the same award, NHL draft club, and college, Rau and Bjugstad are anything but similar when it comes to their style of play and physical appearance. While Bjugstad fit the profile of every scouts dream with his big body, physicality, and great hockey sense, Kyle Rau is portrayed as a much smaller, yet crafty and dynamic forward with good hands.
For many NHL prospects, it’s that special time of year. It’s the time to impress, the time to build strength and most importantly, the time to make a name for yourself amongst the college hockey world. For Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, making a striking impression is anything but challenging. Nineteen-year-old freshman Kyle Rau is currently positioned as a top line winger for the Minnesota Gophers. He has tallied 9 points in just six games of the new season (6-3-9) in which places him at the top of the ranks in several offensive categories, including a remarkable plus +8 rating. Due to his impressive scoring abilities, he is tied for first for the most points amongst college freshman, and tied second nationally with four power-play goals. The Golden Gophers are currently a top ranked college hockey team with a notable 5-1-0 season in hand. Making this season an effortless one thus far, Nick Bjugstad assists Kyle Rau on the top line as a big bodied power forward, looking to stir up trouble on the ice. Bjugstad is known to use his body for both offensive and defensive purposes, making him one of the best two-way players in college hockey with a +7 rating. The hulking sophomore has averaged a remarkable 1.5 points in his first 6 games for Minnesota (5-4-9). Together, this Florida Panther prospect tandem will be fighting hard to give the Minnesota Gophers their first national title since 2003.
While Rau and Bjugstad are off to an impressive start in the season, other Panther prospects such as: Zach Hyman, Connor Brickley, Corban Knight, Ben Gallacher, and Drew Shore have each made significant contributions to their teams as well. This is a promising sign for a Panthers future team, loaded with young talent. For the fans of South Florida, the future of our team has never looked so bright
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