If everything went to plan, we wouldn’t be here talking about the season Nick Bjugstad had. After making a brief 11-game cameo after finishing up his college career at the University of Minnesota, the hope was that he would get an opportunity to play a season in the AHL to further hone his skills.
What we got instead was a player who ended up leading the team in points, and showed that he has the potential to be one of the game’s top power forwards.
He also represented Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships, giving him plenty of experience to bring to the table when he did decide to turn pro.
Bjugstad would play in 76-games in his first full NHL season, leading the team in points with 38. That mark is the lowest point total by a team leader in NHL history. The point did, however, put him fifth among all rookies and only Nathan MacKinnon, Boone Jenner and Tyler Toffoli had more game winning goals.
With a rare combination of size and skill Bjugstad certainly has the potential to be one of the league’s top centers, who can forget this beauty, his signature goal against the Detroit Red Wings – against one of the best defensive forwards in the league,
But how did his season stack up against other top power forwards in their rookie seasons?
I read some draft reports during his draft year and some stated he was a combination of Joe Thornton and Jeff Carter. With Carter’s ‘shoot-first’ mentality and the ability to use his body to make plays like Thornton the comparisons made sense. I took the rookie seasons of both, as well as the rookie years of Blake Wheeler, David Backes (used as comparisons here), Martin Hanzal and Ryan Johansen (the more data the better?) to see where Bjugstad stacked up in his first full season in the NHL.
|NHL Rookie Year||Games||Goals||Assists||Points|
Only Wheeler and Carter had more points their rookie season, and if you average out everyone’s numbers over a 76-game schedule (the same amount Bjugstad played), Bjugstad’s 38-points beats out the 32-point averaged out.
Wheeler, who had the most points among this group, was already 22-years old during his rookie season, Carter was 20-at the start of the season before 21-midway through and Bjugstad played the entire season at 21.
Along with Aleksander Barkov, Bjugstad gives the Panthers an one/two punch at center that could be one of the better combinations in the league in a few years. But what should we expect out of Bjugstad going forward? A look at the same group of players and how they fared in their second season,
|NHL Sophomore Year||Games||Goals||Assists||Points|
The two highest scorers from the first year, Wheeler and Carter, took a step back – not uncommon (just look at Jonathan Huberdeau) for a player in his second season. Johansen also took a step back, but slightly in his defense it was during a shortened season (still didn’t reach his rookie season if averaged out).
Thornton, Backes and Hanzal all made strides forward, with them all combining to increase their points by six (32-to-38). You can look the second year graph one of two ways, either Bjugstad had a great year like Wheeler and Carter – then took a step back – in which Bjugstad could do the same.
Or that with more of a sample (six players as oppose to two) it tells us that Bjugstad is bound to improve based on averages. One thing for sure, the third year should be the big year for Bjugstad, as all six players improved their second year numbers and players like Johansen and Backes had their breakout seasons.
|NHL Third Season||Games||Goals||Assists||Points|