Florida Panthers: Nick Bjugstad Should Remain on the Wing

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 23: Nick Bjugstad #27 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on January 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 23: Nick Bjugstad #27 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on January 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After the genius choice made by head coach Bob Boughner last season, forward Nick Bjugstad should remain on the wing to start the season.

For the past few seasons, Florida Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad has gone through some rough times. Whether it’s been injury trouble or lack of scoring, the American forward has been eager to get his groove back.

At the start of the 2018-19 season, Bjugstad started on the third line, alongside Jared McCann and Connor Brickley. As the year progressed, the offense for not only Bjugstad but the rest of the team was struggling, so head coach Bob Boughner took action. He made one line adjustment that may have changed Big Nick’s position forever.

This bold switch was to move Jonathan Huberdeau down to the second line while placing Bjugstad on the first with Aleksander Barkov and Evgeni Dadonov. This moves Nick to the wing, something outside of his normal comfort zone outside the center position. But this move was a blessing in disguise as it was only the start for Bjugstad playing like his ‘scoring self’ again.

One reason why Bjugstad should stay at the wing is the idea of having less pressure to play both sides of the ice. When he was at the center position, he had a lot more responsibility when it came to his role. Once he switched over to the wing, he was able to put his sole focus on offense. This brought out Nick’s inner offensive beast.

An example of this change in pressure is expressed in a good amount of his goals from last season. To examine one further, he had one goal in a game against the Montreal Canadiens where he went all out on offense which paid off.

Instead of thinking like a center and playing more conservative, Bjugstad jumped ahead to catch a pass from Barkov, leading to a breakaway forehand-backhand goal. In this play, Barkov and Dadonov were keeping a close eye towards the defensive zone, allowing Bjugstad to stretch to the other end of the ice and score.

Additionally, Bjugy shouldn’t go back to the center position because of how well he fits on Florida’s first line. When the line combinations were adjusted, Bjugstad jumped up to play with Barkov and Dadonov, which ultimately sparked his comeback. It turned out to be a perfect fit for Nick to play on the top line.

He played incredibly well with Barkov and Dadonov solely because of how great their chemistry was. There are countless examples which illustrate their top-notch chemistry from last season.

Whether it was a stretch pass from Barkov to Bjugstad, a two-on-one executed perfectly between the three, or anything else, they trio fit pretty well together. It’s like they always knew where the other was going to be, and no team in the league could stop them. Essentially, they were limitless while on the ice together.

What management has come to learn over the past few years is that Bjugstad needs talented/skillful players around him in order to be successful. By no means is Nick someone who will make his teammates better like a Barkov or McDavid, however, he’s a reliable role player that you can depend on when you hand him the tools for success.

Ultimately, his solid production from the second half of last season was largely in effect from Barkov and Dadonov. Because they’re so skilled and can offer support, Bjugstad was able to bring the best out of himself, something we hadn’t seen for years.

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Since moving to the wing last season, his production has risen. For the Florida Panthers’ sake, it’d be advised to keep him on the wing beside Barkov and Dadonov.