Following a career year in 2018, Nick Bjugstad will look to build off the momentum and become an All-Star caliber winger in 2019 for the Florida Panthers.
After several mediocre years in 2016 and 2017, Panther fans and management began to gradually lose confidence in Nick Bjugstad.
For quite some time, Bjugstad’s name was heavily mentioned in trade rumors, with an abundance of Panther fans practically begging for Nick’s departure via trade. The 2017-18 season seemed like the power forward’s final opportunity to prove himself in a Florida Panthers’ uniform. Spoiler alert: Nick Bjugstad did not disappoint!
While participating in all 82 regular season contests (first time in his career), Big Nick registered a respectable slash line of 19G, 30A, for 49 points on the year. However, Nick wasn’t entirely dominant and unstoppable until being paired with the likes of Aleksander Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov on Florida’s top line.
Once HC Bob Boughner made the change of promoting Bjugstad as the team’s 1st line winger, the Panthers and Bjugstad ultimately saw quality results.
With a first line consisting of Barkov, Bjugstad, and Dadonov, the Florida Panthers gradually became a playoff contending team following the All-Star break. FLA’s 1st line was essentially one of the best top lines throughout the entire National Hockey League, producing points on a game-by-game basis for the Cats.
In essence, Bjugstad developed instant chemistry with ‘Barky’ and ‘Dad,’ sparking an increase in the level of offensive production from all three players. The Panthers nearly made the playoffs (missed by solely one point), in large part because of Bjugstad’s unforeseen emergence down the stretch.
If Nick continues playing exceptionally well in 2019, then Florida will undoubtedly secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and contend for the highly coveted Stanley Cup down the road from now.
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Bjugstad is entering the prime of his career and still possesses loads of untapped potential. If Boughner keeps Nick on the first line and distributes meaningful minutes, then Bjugstad could unquestionably pot 20+ goals and 50 points in an entire season.
Furthermore, If Nick Bjugstad remains entirely healthy, like during the 2017-18 campaign, then Panther fans should be incredibly excited for Bjugstad’s impact on an offensively talented Cats squad.
Moreover, playing alongside pass-happy teammates such as Barkov and Dadonov will only further contribute towards sustainable success for Bjugstad. If the three remain a unit, Nick will indubitably receive more opportunities/scoring chances, mainly because he’ll be playing with Dadonov and Barkov from the start of the season, as opposed to after the All-Star break.
Last season, Bjugstad finally utilized his 6’6″ frame and bullied the opposition quite frequently. By playing more fiercely and competitively, along with a more physical edge, Bjugstad will only continue to experience improvements in the offensive side of his game.
In addition, he’s displayed an outstanding work ethic during the 2017 and 2018 offseasons. In the offseason of 2017, Bjugstad made a brilliant decision by joining the Da Beauty League.
While playing against some skilled players, even those with NHL experience, Bjugstad acquired more experience and developed greater confidence in himself. He’s currently playing in the league for Team RBC and has registered 7 goals in a fairly small sample size, thus far.
In short, Nick Bjugstad has grown into a potent scoring winger on the Florida Panthers. The Cats shouldn’t consider including Bjugstad in a potential trade unless the return guarantees a player of a higher caliber.
Essentially, the 2018-19 NHL season should be a promising one for Bjugstad, as Nick will most likely eclipse the 50 point plateau for the first time in his NHL career.