Credit: University of Minnesota
Gophers fans rejoice.
The University of Minnesota announced on Thursday that forward Nick Bjugstad will return for his junior season. The Florida Panthers prospect and former first-round NHL draft pick decided not to sign a professional contract and continue his college career.
“This is the right spot for me,” Bjugstad said in a news release. “I am going to be close to finishing my education and hopefully can accomplish the goal that I have had ever since I was little, which is winning a national championship. We are going to have a good team this year and hopefully get another chance at the national championship and make a run there. I feel I can develop here and become more of a leader on the team as well. Hopefully, I will have a good season.”
Bjugstad and the Gophers will enter the 2012-2013 with very high expectations after reaching the Frozen Four last April. The Blaine native and former Mr. Hockey will most likely be dubbed WCHA Preseason Player of the Year.
“We are obviously excited Nick is returning,” said coach Don Lucia. “I think Nick felt that he had a little bit more room to grow as a person and as a player. The great thing is that at the end of his junior year is that he will be very close to graduating college. He can be a leader on our team and he feels he can continue to get better in our program. He made great strides his first two years and we are confident he is going to make great strides during his junior year.”
From the University of Minnesota:
The 6’5”, 211-pound center from Blaine, Minn., was named All-WCHA First Team and Second-Team All-American after recording 42 points in 40 games as a sophomore. He led Minnesota with 25 goals (tied for fifth in the nation) and also added 17 assists as he finished third on the team in points. His 25 goals were the most scored by a Gopher since Ryan Potulny had 38 in 2005-06. Minnesota was 20-6-1 when he had a point last season.
Bjugstad recorded 21 of his points (9g-12a) in 16 road games and he had a point in 13 of 16 games away from Mariucci Arena. He was +21 on the season and tied for second on the team in power-play goals (8). He also led the team in shooting percentage (17.2%) and faceoffs (of players who have taken more than 50 faceoffs) with a 57.9% success rate.
Bjugstad, who was a first-round selection of the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was named the national Player of the Month for November after recording 13 points and nine goals. He was also named the WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for Nov. 22.