For the second consecutive season, F Nick Bjugstad led the Florida Panthers in the goal scoring department. With a career-high 24 goals during the 2014-15 season, Bjugstad and Florida agreed on a new six-year contract mid-way through the season.
After playing through a nagging injury towards the season’s second half, Bjugstad’s year came to an end in late March as he underwent back surgery. FloridaPanthers.com recently caught up with the Minnesota native to talk about his recovery and more.
How’s your summer been so far?
Bjugstad: It’s been good. Had a slow first few weeks, not doing much, just doing really light workouts. Now I’m trying to get back into it, nothing heavy, but starting to get back into the routine. I’m feeling a little better about my body, since I couldn’t do much for a while. It’s been good so far, I’ve gotten to fish a little bit and see a lot of my family, so it’s good being back for a bit.
How would you say you’re feeling at this point?
Bjugstad: Basically, I’m feeling 100 percent. I don’t feel any tingling or soreness in my back. They just have to remind me all the time that you can’t rush it, you can’t overdo it right now. Just trying to get back into shape which is nice, I feel like I could play a game right now, but obviously they’re not letting me get to that extent. My physical therapist is doing a really good job with me. Doing a lot of core, a lot of balance stuff to increase my back [strength]. I’ve been learning quite a bit, I’ve never really done these types of workouts it’s good to be learning this kind of different stuff.
At the end of last season you had moved into your first house. Tell us about now having your first place in South Florida.
Bjugstad: It’s good. I didn’t get it until the end of the year so I didn’t get a chance to enjoy it that much. But it’s super nice. It’s very enjoyable kind of being by the water. I’m on a canal, so I’ll get to do some fishing, which is exciting. Willie Mitchell can show me the ropes. He’s been texting me, I guess he was in the Bahamas, so I hope that we can do that. It’ll be different living downtown, but I’m excited. A lot of the young guys are there, so I’ll get to spend more time with them.
I’ve never had my own place. It’s a townhouse, so there’s a little more work in a house than an apartment. I’ve never had to experience things like plumbing and remodeling, stuff like that. So I’m learning quite a bit. It’s a fun process.
Have you been watching the Stanley Cup playoffs or just checking in here and there?
Bjugstad: Yeah, I’ve got quite a bit of time on my hands so I’ve been watching those games. Every time I watch those since I’ve been a part of the pros, it’s something that really makes you want to make the extra effort in the summer, work harder. It gets you excited for the season. The hockey is another tempo, it’s fun to watch. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to play in. I’m looking forward to hopefully playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Panthers.
You had a big season this year in Florida. To have the season you did, do you credit it to goals you set yourself? Veteran guidance?
Bjugstad: It was a good mix of everything. Experience, confidence with myself, a big part of playing in the NHL, at least for myself is believing that you should be there, telling yourself that you belong out there, getting comfortable. That was the main difference for me. Obviously a big help from the older guys, the team was a whole different dynamic, as far as leadership. Who we had playing, we had a lot of winners, Stanley Cup winners on the team. It changed the whole morale and attitude of the team. It was good learning a lot from those older guys, they’re all really good with the younger guys. It did nothing but help me this year.