April 3, 2013
Update: Florida general manager and executive vice president Dale Tallon has said Bjugstad will practice with the Panthers on Friday and will make his NHL debut on Saturday.
MINNEAPOLIS –All-American Nick Bjugstad has elected to forego his senior season at Minnesota after signing an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Wednesday.
“I can’t thank the University of Minnesota enough for three great years. I loved every minute of my time here, and I am thankful for the opportunity to play for the Gophers,” Bjugstad said.
No Gopher tallied more goals over the last three seasons than Bjugstad with 54 while the junior tallied 98 total points in 109 career games. In Bjugstad’s final two seasons with the program, the Gophers earned two-straight MacNaughton cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) regular-season champions and two NCAA tournament berths including the team’s run to the Frozen Four in 2011-12.
“Nick is certainly ready to take his game to the next level,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “We appreciate his loyalty and dedication to Gopher hockey. He has grown a lot in his three seasons with the program, and he clearly has a bright future ahead of him.”
After a 20-point freshman campaign in 2010-11, Bjugstad skated to his best season with the Gophers in 2011-12, earning Second Team All-America and All-WCHA First Team honors. The Blaine, Minn., native posted a career-high 42 points, 25 goals and 17 assists as a sophomore while the Gophers captured the team’s first MacNaughton Cup since 2006-07 and returned to the NCAA Frozen Four for the 20th time in program history and the first time since 2005.
Bjugstad returned to the Gophers as a junior in 2012-13 and served as an alternate captain for the squad while also earning All-WCHA Third Team accolades. The junior led Minnesota and finished tied for eighth in the nation with 21 goals and recorded 36 points in his final season with the Maroon and Gold. Eleven of his goals came on the power play – ranking Bjugstad third in the nation – while Minnesota was the nation’s best team on the advantage this season. The Gophers, who added a second-straight MacNaughton Cup in 2012-13, also led the nation in scoring offense during Bjugstad’s final two seasons with the program.
The Florida Panthers selected Bjugstad in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (19th overall).
Bjugstad is the second Gopher to sign a professional contract from the 2012-13 Minnesota squad after Nate Schmidt signed with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
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