Nick Bjugstad

LeBjugstad Shooting Like a Rising Star

LeBjugstad

Photoshopped by Tony Vargas

Come gather ’round people wherever you roam, because ever since Nick LeBjugstad brought his talents to the Sunshine State things have started looking up.

Sure, he stands at roughly 6’8″ by the time he’s laced up and ready for work; but it’s the level of coordination, speed and skill in that big body of his that make Nick Bjugstad one of the most monstrous players to ever put on a Panthers uniform.

Like fellow Florida superstar LeBron James, big players with fast muscle twitch fibers have enormous potential to dominate a sport.

And if you’ve seen Nick Bjugstad recently, you know he’s capable of dominating his opponents.

Any athlete with that rare genetic makeup has been born blessed with the winning lottery ticket already ingrained in their DNA, thus becoming the jackpot prize for teams looking to compete against the greatest athletes in the world. Physically, it’s the best of both worlds.

But to top it off the kids got brains and whole lot of heart.

When Bjugstad was called up at the tail end of the 2012-2013 season, he appeared to be observing more than he was participating, and only racked up 1 point in 11 games and a -8.

For many fans eager to finally watch him play after being acquired in the first round of the 2010 draft, it appeared that perhaps the 19th overall pick would need a bit more time developing in the AHL before he could handle the responsibility that comes with playing for the big boys.

But for Nick LeBjugstad, those 11 games were enough. He evaluated the situation and transformed himself during the off season, and by the time Nick Bjugstad showed up for the rookie tournament in September, his dominating performance made it was clear he wasn’t only observing.

He was calculating. 

Fast forward to this present day and the Florida Panthers are once again at the tail end of an unsuccessful season. But instead of averaging 1 point in 11 games, Nick LeBjugstad’s remarkable 31 points in 62 games make him a 1 point per 2 game player on one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League.

And he’s still just a rookie.

It’s all this and more that makes it fitting to put the “Le” in Nick LeBjugstad. Though the Florida Panthers  may suck right now, they’re not gonna suck for much longer. Especially not when Nick Bjugstad keeps improving and shooting like a rising star in this league.

Olympic torched Panthers playing for Pride

The Florida Panthers will kick the rust off their skates as they take on Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals tonight at 7:30. It’ll be their first game since the Olympic break – which didn’t fare so well for the two Cats chosen to represent their country – as rookie sensation Aleksander Barkov and the pesky penalty killing Tomas Kopecky were both injured in Sochi with likely season ending injuries.

There aren’t very many teams in the history of the NHL that have depended on a rookie to center their first line, but these Florida Panthers are different. Barkov’s absence has left a glaring hole between Brad Boyes and Sean Bergenheim. Luckily, the Florida Panthers have a big backup plan….fellow second line rookie, Nick Bjugstad.

Dale Tallon dipped his hands into the San Antonio Rampage’s AHL roster to find someone to fill Bjugstad’s former spot on the second line and chose Drew Shore to fill the slot between the sophomore slumping reigning rookie of the year, Jonathan Huberdeau and the often struggling right winger, Scottie Upshall.

No one has heard the rumors that if either Drew Shore or Nick Bjugstad are injured in the coming weeks that Dale Tallon will dip his hands into local high school teams, because that’d be a joke. But for an organization that prides itself on depth, it’s surprising how much they rely on youth over depth to score against the best players in the world.

Whether or not our new top 6 lineup is a recipe for success or disaster remains to be seen, but with the season quickly coming to an end just like the Panthers playoff dreams, I can only hope that these professional ice hockey players will play for the pride of wearing a Florida Panthers jersey rather than for the hopes and dreams of being traded away to a Stanley Cup contending team at the trade deadline and kissing Lord Stanley’s Cup in June.

Maybe if they can find a competitive edge as sharp as their skates the Panther’s will be able to end the season on a positive note, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that the positive note may not sound until after the final horn blows and the season comes to a close.

The Panthers are poised to be very active during free agency and are positioned to take a top five pick. The Panthers learned last year that being the worst team in the NHL won’t guarantee you the best player in the draft when they missed out on first overall pick in rookie scoring leader Nathan Mackinnon to the Colorado Avalanche. So perhaps they’ll get lucky this time and go number 1 overall. Their chances would certainly increase if they manage to fall apart and ride a losing streak of unimaginable lows.