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Panthers prospect Bjugstad returning to college

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 4:46 PM / News


Florida Panthers prospect Nick Bjugstad has decided to return to the University of Minnesota for his junior season instead of turning pro in 2012-13.

Bjugstad, Florida's first-round pick (No. 19) in the 2010 NHL Draft, had considered rolling the dice in an attempt to earn a roster spot for the Panthers out of training camp in September. The thought wasn't too far-fetched, considering the 6-foot-4, 204-pound center is regarded as one of general manager Dale Tallon's top prospects within the system.

Bjugstad reportedly has been one player coveted by Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis as part of a trade package that could send goalie Roberto Luongo back to Florida. At present, Tallon isn't willing to part with his prized possession.

Bjugstad produced 25 goals and 42 points in 40 games for Minnesota last season. The Gophers lost to the eventual NCAA champion, Boston College, in the Frozen Four.

"It's a tough [decision], especially since how the season ended last year," Bjugstad told the Panthers' website. "We've got a lot of good players coming in at Minnesota [and] we've got a lot of good players coming back, so it's a tough one. Obviously [Florida] is a great organization and it's been turned around."

Bjugstad is confident his return to the university is the right one. The Minnesota native said he feels he has unfinished business on the collegiate front.

"This is the right spot for me," he said. "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."

Playing for my favorite team growing up, I've probably scored that goal a million times in my driveway. It feels good to actually do it in real life.

— Dale Weise, who grew up a Canadiens fan, on scoring the overtime winner in Montreal's 5-4 victory against Tampa Bay in Game 1