The Gophers men's hockey team, coming off a Frozen Four season and armed with a bunch of talented incoming recruits, figured to be good next season regardless of whether Nick Bjugstad decided to come back for his junior year or turn pro with the Florida Panthers.

 

But the news from the program Thursday -- that Bjugstad is, indeed, coming back -- was huge nonetheless.

Bjugstad, a 6-5, 211-pound center from Blaine, was named All-WCHA First Team and Second-Team All-American last season as a sophomore. He had a team-leading 25 goals, which was tied for fifth in the nation. He was a first-round pick of the Panthers in the 2010 draft, and the prospect of him turning pro genuinely seemed like a 50-50 proposition, though in a February interview with the Star Tribune, Bjugstad perhaps hinted at his mindset when he said, "I would have no problem coming back for another year or two years," and talked of the joys of college hockey.