Reporting Mike Max
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team takes on Colorado College this weekend. If there’s one player that will be a key to the series and a key to every series the rest of the season, it’s Nick Bjugstad.
He has not been a surprise on this team. He has been very good. The maturation process of playing college hockey has gone quicker for Bjugstad than it does most players.
He came from Blaine High School. Bjugstad, the nephew of a former Minnesota North Star, had already made a name when he was drafted out of high school by the Florida Panthers.
Now he’s proving worthy of the hype for the Gophers, blossoming in a bit of a breakout season for the kid who grew up wanting to play at Minnesota. Bjugstad actually graduated high school early to get to the Gophers faster.
“I’ve always wanted to be here. I grew up watching the Gophers and loving the Gophers and everything. I didn’t get to see my uncle play here but I knew he played here, so it’s kind of a tradition. I think I always wanted to go here,” Bjugstad said.
That’s what happens when you’re given gifts, and that’s what happens when you work hard.
“You started to see him go to a different level last spring,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia. “Then when the year began, he had a good offseason in the weight room and he came back real confident. Now he’s getting that No. 1 power play time and he’s on that No. 1 line.”
What did you weigh when you came in and what do you weigh now?
“I was about 190 or 195 and I’m about 210 now so I’ve put on some weight which is nice,” Bjugstad said.
So he toils to get better, well aware there are those that suggest this could be his final season with the Gophers. There’s a good chance that professional hockey could come this spring, but well aware that right now, that does not matter.
“It’s hard to think about it right now, you can’t really think about it during the season,” Bjugstad said. “You kind of forget about it and just play for the Gophers.”
The Gophers enter the weekend series tied for the WCHA lead with UMD. Colorado College, their weekend opponent, is right behind them.