Can Nick Bjugstad Be A Superstar In The Future?


Can Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad become a known name in the NHL?

The words “Florida Panthers” and “Superstar” have not gone together like peanut butter and jelly often in their existence. They have had a few in their twenty-one seasons after coming into the NHL in 1993. One could argue that goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck was a key reason of why the team in 1996 went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with a team of lesser-known and hard-working players.

There was forward Pavel Bure, whom was with the Panthers from 1999-2002 after being traded from the Vancouver Canucks. He scored 235 points in 212 games and won two consecutive Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophies. Let us also not leave out goaltender Roberto Luongo, whom is currently back in Florida having a great season.

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  • One could even possibly include forward Olli Jokinen with 419 points in 567 games in Florida, including 89 and 91 point seasons. Forward Jonathan Huberdeau won the Calder Memorial Trophy in the 2012-2013 season, but since then has not lived up the hype that fans and analysts expected due to progressing back slowly from injury.

    This season, first overall pick in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft, eighteen year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad is turning heads all over the world and should be an absolute superstar.

    "However, one name that is most recently becoming to be spoken about the NHL in a good way is Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad."

    The Panthers drafted the 6’6″ Center “Big Nick” as fans call him 19th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He decided to play three seasons at the University of Minnesota for the Gophers with 98 points in 109 games.

    General Manager Dale Tallon had high expectations for him as the team’s future second line Center after drafting Center Aleksander Barkov 2nd overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Barkov had a respectable rookie season with 24 points in 54 games. He has been a bit streaky this season after coming back from a season-ending injury with 15 points in 35 games this season. However, he is still nineteen years old and it is too early to tell how if he will live up to expectations being drafted at such a high position.

    Bjugstad, being a 1st Round middle pick surprised in his first NHL season of 2013-2014 with 38 points in 76 games. Those 38 points led a poor offensive Florida Panthers team. This season has been more of the same as he currently leads the team again with 29 points in 46 games. He also uses his large frame in a useful was as he been difficult for opponents to throw off the puck.

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    Florida Panthers

    While it is not a race for who becomes the top line Center of the Florida Panthers future between him and Barkov, Bjugstad is showing that he can take the role as well as a one-two Center punch for possibly years to come.

    Dale Tallon thought so as well. Bjugstad re-signed with the Florida Panthers for six years at an average of $4.1 million per season. Many analysts say that price is an absolute steal in today’s NHL market for what the team might see in him in the future. He is only 22 years-old and is still certainly progressing, being on pace for just over 50 points this season.

    Bjugstad has also been very outspoken within the organization as the Panthers continue to slowly build into a contender with their young developing prospects. Frequently, he has no problem speaking to the media and is involved with fan-related and community events. It is easy to see why he is a fan favorite in South Florida already in his short career thus far.

    The 2010 NHL Entry Draft was one of the best in years. Nick Bjugstad cannot be put into the same discussion of first overall forward Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers, second overall forward Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, or even fourth overall forward Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    However, he could progress to be more valuable than other players that have made minor impacts in their careers thus far such as Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner and Minnesota Wild forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund. Those are all are players who were drafted that year earlier than Bjugstad.

    Going back to Olli Jokinen as he was mentioned earlier as an example. He spent his first four seasons in the NHL never reaching higher than 29 points. That was until he scored 65 points in the 2002-2003 season and onto breaking the 90 point caliber in his prime at 29 years-old. Perhaps Tallon sees Bjugstad on a similar path within the next six years as the best could be yet to come from “Big Nick” as a cornerstone in the Florida Panthers lineup.

    Next: Why Aaron Ekblad Deserves to be an NHL All-Star