MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Friday night he scored a goal in the Gophers win over Wisconsin. The fact Nick Bjugstad is playing for the Gophers this season is a story by itself. With a professional option in front of him, he chose to come back – with no regrets.

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Bjugstad understands who he is today.

“I think when I came in here my eyes were a little big. It was just kind of one of those things. I grew up watching Gopher hockey, and I was finally here. So I’ve kind of adjusted a little bit and grown some confidence,” Bjugstad said.

He was listed as a blue chipper at Blaine High School, and was drafted in the first round by Florida. This led to speculation that he might turn pro after last season. He decided to stay, and the pending lockout had little impact on his choice.

Coach Dan Lucia says a player’s decision is his own.

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“You hope that once a kid makes a decision, some kids elected to leave, and knowing there could be a lockout but they’re happy with their decision, of if a kid stayed you make that decision for the right reason whether the games are going on or not,” Lucia said.

He has had a chance to watch the NHL players up close working out at the University of Minnesota.

“We get to catch the former Gophers in the locker room and the training room. Talked to [Keith] Ballard, tell us some funny stories about when they were here. But we go over [and] watch them sometimes,” Bjugstad said.

And so he keeps his head up, scores goals and hopes to go out a champion – refusing to accept the billing of the team’s offensive go-to man.

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“If I’m not producing, I think we have a lot of guys who can step up. So I’d say we got a lot of guys that, I mean, from our top line to our fourth line I think we got a lot of guys that can step up at certain times in the season,” he said.

Mike Max