NHL 2010 Top Draft Prospects: Nick Bjugstad

Out of 25 previous winners of the Minnesota Mr. Hockey award for the top high school hockey player in Minnesota, only one of them has ever become a true impact player in the NHL: Paul Martin.

However, Nick Bjugstad, the senior from Blaine High School and the winner of the 2010 Mr. Hockey award will be looking to alter that trend.

The 6-foot-4, 188-pound center finished the regular season with 29 goals and 60 points in 25 games for Blaine. He added 5 goals and 9 points in five playoff games, including 2 goals and 3 points in their championship victory.

“Minnesota boys are kind of known not to be so nice, so I want to be tougher with my game and become more physical,” Bjugstad said to NHL.com. “I need to get mentally tougher and take every shift with that mindset that I can do it. Then it becomes natural.”

Many Minnesota boys grow up with the dream of playing for the Golden Gophers at The U. Bjugstad is no different, but was originally rejected acceleration status to join the Gophers at age 17 due to academics. Bjugstad responded by taking advanced classes at his high school in order to qualify for the prestigious NCAA program.

His mental toughness, though, is just one piece of his game that makes him so attractive to NHL scouts.

“He’s good along the boards and knows how to use his body to protect the puck,” Blaine coach Dave Aus said in an interview with NHL.com. “If the puck is up for grabs along the half boards, he’s very good at shielding guys from the puck by just sticking his rear end out. He’s so strong and his reach is tremendous, so it makes it tough for other high school kids.”

“He’s further along and more polished than Blake Wheeler,” a scout said. “He’s also a better skater than David Backes was at the same age. The only difference is Backes was thicker, but the ingredients are there. He wants the puck and wants to make plays. He’s a blue-collar type kid who works his tail off.”

With a bloodline leading to the NHL (his uncle, Scott Bjugstad also played in the NHL), he has many things going for him. However, he realizes he must continue to gain strength if he hopes to survive the harsh climate and the intense grind of the tumultuous NHL season.
“I know my size helps and my long reach, but I’m going to keep working,” he said. “I’ve always admired guys like Saku Koivu and Joe Thornton — I think I play a similar style to those guys. With my size, I’m more of a power forward so I want to use my body to reach that upper level.”

Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.

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