Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: U's Bjugstad is center of attention

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 17, 2012 - 6:36 AM

Nick Bjugstad gets teased: "I shoot the puck quite a bit -- which I'm told to -- so the guys call me 'Tunnel Vision,' " the Gophers sophomore center said. He gets pranked: He shares an apartment with teammates, and a few Gophers veterans recently sneaked into his room, overturned his bed and dumped his clothes on the floor. He had lost the key to lock his room.

It's part of the unique skill set "Bjugey" possesses, on and off the ice. He is the Gophers' first 20-goal scorer in three seasons and a first-round NHL draft pick, but his teammates can still treat him like one of the guys. He is 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with fighter's scars, but he was among the most approached -- and approachable -- players at the recent Skate with the Gophers event.

And he's often the best player on the ice, even if he doesn't act like it.

"There are shifts out there when it is just like, whoa, this kid is amazing," said freshman Kyle Rau, Bjugstad's left winger since the first day of practice this season. "Everyone in the crowd knows it. Everyone on the ice knows it."

And everyone knows this: The play of Bjugstad and his linemates will be a major factor in whether the Gophers -- in first place in the WCHA heading into an important home series against Bemidji State this weekend -- make a postseason run or finish outside of the NCAA tournament field for the fourth consecutive season. Bjugstad is tied for second nationally in goals with 21 and has a team-high 34 points, numbers that dwarf his first-year production (eight goals, 12 assists), when he missed five games because of mononucleosis.

"He had a very good second half of his freshman year," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "[Now] he is a year older, he is a year stronger."

Family dream

Bjugstad has a scar on his forehead from a high stick. Another over an eyebrow. His most noticeable scar is on his chin, not from hockey but from a nasty fall on his two-wheel bike when he was a hyperactive 3-year-old.

That energy, though, translated well into hockey. Among his most influential teachers were his father, Mike, and his uncle Scott.

"My dad had me on skates when I could walk," Nick said.

Actually, his father waited until Nick was 2 1/2. "I got him an old pair of double-bladed skates, and he walked around the whole house in them," Mike Bjugstad said. "I was a little bit of a psycho hockey dad."

Nick slept with his plastic hockey stick instead of a blankie. Years later, he named the new family dog -- a black toy poodle -- Puck.

Scott Bjugstad went from Irondale to the Gophers -- he wore No. 27, like Nick -- to the NHL for parts of nine seasons, including five with the North Stars.

"Hockey is our family deal," said Mike Bjugstad, who played for Irondale and Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Mike coached Nick from age 4 to 12, mites to peewees. "I was always hard on him," Mike Bjugstad said. "It wasn't that I didn't compliment him, but I would always add something for him to work on. He was totally the opposite of me.

"He was a nice kid. He doesn't have a mean side to him. I was a real hot-tempered player and could not understand why he didn't have an edge."

When Nick was 5, his family moved to a kid's version of hockey heaven. It was a home near Blaine High School, where he later starred, with a back-yard tennis court -- ideal for in-line skating -- and an outdoor rink across the street come winter. His neighborhood buddies came over daily in the summer for roller hockey, then everyone skated to the Bunker Hills Water Park wave pool nearby.

Nick's parents divorced when he was in fifth grade, and his father stopped coaching him in sixth grade, but Nick remains close to his dad. "I can't thank him enough for all he has done," Nick said.

His mother, Janeen, tried to be the nurturing parent. She knew Nick felt bad enough after games he struggled. Janeen sensed Nick's gift for hockey early -- even though her son was stickman-thin, constantly getting hurt and always having a runny nose during games. She also provided Nick with her "tall" genes. She has a 6-5 brother and cousins who are 6-7 and 6-8, and Nick grew seven inches during his first two years of high school.

Scott, who owns a shooting school, helped his nephew with his shot and offered other hockey advice regularly. Chris Carroll, a trainer who works with the Blaine boys' hockey team, transformed Nick's ultra-thin body through weight lifting and nutrition. "He hypnotized [Nick]," Mike Bjugstad said. "He won't eat fast food -- and no pop."

Bjugstad turned down the chance to leave Blaine to join the United States national development team at Ann Arbor, Mich., for his junior/senior year. Pro scouts, including Fred Bandel of the Florida Panthers, were regulars at Bengals games that season. He accelerated his high school studies to finish a year early. Three months before college, Bjugstad was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, selected by the Panthers.

"I could coach another 40 years and not have another kid like him," Bengals coach Dave Aus said. "He did not think he was better than anyone else."

Moving forward

The hockey intelligentsia is convinced Bjugstad will leave college after this season to sign an NHL contract with the Panthers. His parents and Nick insist nothing has been decided.

"I would have no problem coming back for another year or two years," Nick Bjugstad said. "My uncle always tells me this is the most fun you are going to have playing hockey."

Janeen, who still thinks of the 8-pound, 9-ounce baby she wanted to name Bjorn (but was vetoed), says she is "not quite ready to see him go." Scott and Mike also said they hope he stays. Mike wonders whether Nick is ready for the physical NHL game. At the NHL combine before the draft, teams asked him directly: "Are you soft?"

Bandel, who will see Bjugstad 10 to 12 times this season and has noticed a player maturing physically and developing a better all-around game, is unconcerned about his toughness. "He will develop a mean streak," Bandel said. "It is always difficult to tell when someone is 100 percent ready for the NHL, but when you are 6-5 and skate like he does, his size is a tremendous advantage. His reach is incredible. He is like a condor. He covers so much ice."

Bjugstad's reach was on display in a different way earlier this month at the Skate with the Gophers event at Mariucci Arena. Every youngster seemed to want Bjugstad's autograph. He signed, then invited every one behind his table, put one long arm around their shoulders and smiled for photos.

"Nick is a great kid to be around," Gophers defenseman Mark Alt said. "And as far as living with him, he is a little bit on the messy side, but I can deal with that."

His game, for the most part, is clean. Bjugstad, second on the team in shots with 102, had his first collegiate hat trick against St. Cloud State on Nov. 19. In the past five games, Bjugstad is in a mini-slump with one goal and two assists.

"The tough thing about hockey," he said, "is figuring out why you are playing good and what you are doing. I learned this at an early age: It is a big-time mental game."

Indeed. Finding that extra edge down the stretch will be a challenge for Bjugstad, who played on three high school state tournament teams but -- to his dismay -- has never been on a state championship team at any level. His remedy for that is simple.

"A national title would be good," he said. "We have all the ingredients we need."

So does the player who hopes to take them there.

  • GOPHERS MEN'S HOCKEY NICK BJUGSTAD

    Up next: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday vs. Bemidji St. • Mariucci Arena • TV: FSN Plus (Fri.), FSN (Sat.) • Radio: 1500-AM (Fri.), 95.3 FM (Sat.)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Dallas 6:00 PM
Orlando
Sacramento 6:00 PM
Indiana
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Houston 6:30 PM
Detroit
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Cleveland 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
Memphis
Portland 7:30 PM
Milwaukee
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
San Antonio
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 9:30 PM
Golden State
Washington 0 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 1
NY Islanders 0 3rd Prd 18:56
Detroit 2
Arizona 1 2nd Prd
Ottawa 1
Los Angeles 6:00 PM
Boston
Florida 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Dallas 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Columbus 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Edmonton 9:00 PM
Calgary
Chicago 9:30 PM
San Jose
Boston College 49 FINAL
Clemson 64
Western Mich 63 FINAL
Eastern Mich 69
NC State 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Wisconsin 74 FINAL
Iowa 63
Stony Brook 48 FINAL
New Hampshire 63
Notre Dame 72 FINAL
Pittsburgh 76
Providence 66 FINAL
St Johns 75
Davidson 70 FINAL
Saint Josephs 75
Xavier 82 FINAL
Seton Hall 90
Tulane 37 FINAL
Temple 55
Auburn 63 FINAL
Tennessee 71
Texas Tech 58 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Arkansas 56 FINAL
Florida 57
Penn State 58 FINAL
Illinois 60
Lipscomb 73 FINAL
Stetson 75
South Florida 71 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Bradley 58 FINAL
Indiana State 64
UMass Lowell 62 2nd Half 1:39
Binghamton 72
Green Bay 51 2nd Half 2:43
Cleveland State 64
Georgetown 65 2nd Half 2:07
Creighton 39
Coll of Charleston 50 2nd Half 4:09
Delaware 58
Villanova 49 2nd Half 8:12
DePaul 46
Vermont 61 2nd Half 1:40
Hartford 44
TCU 66 2nd Half 0:08
Iowa State 83
Kennesaw St 51 FINAL
Jacksonville 50
Kansas State 49 2nd Half 3:26
Kansas 62
Boston Univ 69 2nd Half 1:45
Lehigh 80
Illinois State 46 2nd Half 3:53
Loyola-Chicago 40
Albany 77 FINAL
Maine 59
Butler 53 2nd Half 2:04
Marquette 58
LSU 57 2nd Half 2:59
Miss State 58
Mount St Marys 75 2nd Half 0:22
Sacred Heart 69
Richmond 50 2nd Half 3:21
VA Commonwealth 41
Virginia Tech 61 2nd Half 3:41
Wake Forest 62
IUPU-Ft Wayne 71 2nd Half 0:46
Nebraska Omaha 65
Arkansas State 34 2nd Half 7:55
Georgia State 65
Loyola-Maryland 21 1st Half 5:00
Army 24
Tenn Tech 30 2nd Half
Belmont 37
Bethune-Cookman 14 1st Half 7:47
Florida A&M 7
Valparaiso 39 2nd Half
Ill-Chicago 25
UAB 33 2nd Half
TX-San Antonio 29
Idaho State 26 2nd Half
North Dakota 37
Evansville 27 2nd Half
Drake 29
Rutgers 25 1st Half 3:56
Indiana 26
Ball State 17 1st Half 10:47
Miami-Ohio 18
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
UNC-Wilmington 3:00 PM
Drexel
Coastal Carolina 3:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
Morgan State 3:00 PM
Howard
William & Mary 3:00 PM
James Madison
North Carolina 3:00 PM
Louisville
Coppin State 3:00 PM
MD-Eastern Shore
Ole Miss 3:00 PM
Missouri
Wichita State 3:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pacific
Winthrop 3:00 PM
Radford
George Washington 3:00 PM
Rhode Island
Bryant 3:00 PM
Robert Morris
Long Island 3:00 PM
St Francis-NY
Fair-Dickinson 3:00 PM
St Francis-PA
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Saint Louis
Georgia 3:00 PM
South Carolina
Central Conn St 3:00 PM
Wagner
SIU Edwardsville 3:15 PM
Eastern Ill
Ohio 3:30 PM
Central Mich
Eastern Ky 3:30 PM
Morehead State
Incarnate Word 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Campbell 3:30 PM
UNC-Asheville
Vanderbilt 3:30 PM
Texas A&M
South Alabama 4:00 PM
ULM
Western Carolina 4:00 PM
UNC Greensboro
Detroit 4:00 PM
Milwaukee
Idaho 4:05 PM
Eastern Wash
Marshall 4:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Jackson State 4:30 PM
Miss Valley St
Houston Baptist 4:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Louisiana 4:30 PM
Texas State
Denver 4:30 PM
South Dakota St
Oral Roberts 4:30 PM
South Dakota
Texas 5:00 PM
Baylor
Citadel 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Fresno State 5:00 PM
Colorado State
Yale 5:00 PM
Cornell
Ark-Pine Bluff 5:00 PM
Grambling St
Nebraska 5:00 PM
Minnesota
Hampton 5:00 PM
Norfolk State
Purdue 5:00 PM
Northwestern
Alabama A&M 5:00 PM
Prairie View
Dartmouth 5:00 PM
Princeton
Pepperdine 5:00 PM
St Marys-CA
NC A&T 5:00 PM
Savannah State
Delaware State 5:00 PM
SC State
Western Ky 5:00 PM
Southern Miss
Nevada 5:00 PM
Wyoming
Akron 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Colgate 6:00 PM
Bucknell
FIU 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Brown 6:00 PM
Columbia
George Mason 6:00 PM
Duquesne
NC Central 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Saint Peters 6:00 PM
Iona
Alabama 6:00 PM
Kentucky
Abilene Christian 6:00 PM
Lamar
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Liberty
Hawaii 6:00 PM
Long Beach State
New Orleans 6:00 PM
McNeese State
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Navy
Elon 6:00 PM
Northeastern
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
Harvard 6:00 PM
Penn
La Salle 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Furman 6:00 PM
Samford
TX A&M-CC 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Duke 6:00 PM
Virginia
Mercer 6:00 PM
Wofford
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
USC Upstate 6:00 PM
North Florida
Longwood 6:00 PM
Presbyterian
Ark-Little Rock 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
SE Missouri St 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
CS-Northridge 7:00 PM
UC Riverside
Towson 7:00 PM
Hofstra
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Murray State
San Jose St 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Rice 7:00 PM
North Texas
Toledo 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Oklahoma 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
San Francisco 7:00 PM
San Diego
Utah State 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
UCF 7:00 PM
SMU
Southern Ill 7:05 PM
Missouri State
Troy 7:15 PM
Texas-Arlington
Jacksonville St 7:30 PM
Tennessee St
Alabama State 7:30 PM
Texas Southern
Stanford 7:30 PM
Washington St
Santa Clara 8:00 PM
BYU
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Northern Ariz 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Weber State 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
Chicago State 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
UC Santa Barbara 9:00 PM
UC Irvine
Memphis 9:00 PM
Gonzaga
Air Force 9:00 PM
UNLV
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Seattle 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Montana State 9:05 PM
Portland State
Montana 9:05 PM
Sacramento St
Colorado 9:30 PM
UCLA
UMKC 9:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Mount St Marys 64 FINAL
Sacred Heart 71
Texas-El Paso 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 74
Arkansas State 61 FINAL
Georgia State 47
Bryant 84 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Central Conn St 83 FINAL
Wagner 67
Fairleigh Dickinson 78 FINAL
St Francis-PA 60
Long Island 53 FINAL
St Francis-NY 62
Bethune-Cookman 70 FINAL
Florida A&M 57
Longwood 56 FINAL
Campbell 68
Charleston Southern 40 FINAL
Winthrop 77
Louisiana Tech 68 FINAL
Marshall 67
Ohio U 74 FINAL
Central Michigan 66
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 53
Coppin State 58 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 66
Incarnate Word 34 FINAL
Nicholls 67
Samford 46 FINAL
East Tenn St 48
Western Carolina 72 FINAL
Furman 84
Gardner-Webb 71 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 65
Kent State 67 FINAL
Akron 74
SIU-Edwardsville 65 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 48
Eastern Kentucky 58 FINAL
Morehead St 76
Army 62 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 53
Niagara 53 FINAL
Manhattan 46
Lehigh 78 FINAL
Boston U 71
Navy 65 FINAL
Lafayette 60
Saint Josephs 57 FINAL
Davidson 52
Duquesne 56 FINAL
Fordham 46
St Bonaventure 77 FINAL
Massachusetts 57
Milwaukee 64 FINAL
Youngstown St 87
Liberty 50 2nd Half 6:08
High Point 36
Presbyterian 46 2nd Half 0:17
UNC-Asheville 59
Northern Ill 65 2nd Half 0:06
Ball State 62
Houston 60 1st OT 3:31
Cincinnati 62
Holy Cross 59 2nd Half 2:20
American Univ 54
George Washington 81 2nd Half 2:38
George Mason 48
Jacksonville 66 2nd Half 5:13
Kennesaw St 57
North Florida 42 2nd Half
USC Upstate 59
St Marys-CA 27 2nd Half
Pepperdine 19
Nebraska Omaha 20 2nd Half
IUPUI 36
Houston Baptist 32 1st Half 1:43
Sam Houston St 21
Mercer 29 2nd Half
(25) Chattanooga 40
No Dakota State 28 2nd Half
South Dakota St 46
Oral Roberts 23 2nd Half
South Dakota 39
Southern Miss 25 2nd Half
Western Ky 31
TX-San Antonio 25 2nd Half
UAB 41
East Carolina 29 2nd Half
Tulane 23
South Florida 30 2nd Half
Memphis 27
Buffalo 43 2nd Half 15:47
Eastern Michigan 39
New Mexico St 32 1st Half 2:36
TX-Pan American 28
Utah Valley U 18 2nd Half
UMKC 32
Jackson State 18 1st Half 3:54
Miss Valley St 30
Louisiana 26 2nd Half
Texas State 24
South Alabama 27 2nd Half
ULM 32
Saint Louis 45 2nd Half
Dayton 49
Cleveland State 32 2nd Half
Oakland 29
Grand Canyon 33 2nd Half
Chicago State 28
UCLA 20 1st Half 12:16
Oregon 16
Washington St 11 1st Half 11:35
(12) Stanford 19
Kansas State 3:00 PM
Texas Tech
UNLV 3:00 PM
Air Force
UCF 3:00 PM
Tulsa
UNC Greensboro 3:00 PM
Wofford
Delaware State 3:00 PM
SC State
San Diego State 3:00 PM
Utah State
Sacramento St 3:00 PM
Montana
Hampton 3:00 PM
Norfolk State
NC A&T 3:00 PM
Savannah State
Alabama A&M 3:00 PM
Prairie View
Toledo 3:00 PM
Bowling Green
Ark-Pine Bluff 3:00 PM
Grambling
Southern U 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
Marist 3:00 PM
Iona
Bucknell 3:00 PM
Colgate
North Dakota 3:00 PM
Idaho State
Ark-Little Rock 3:30 PM
Georgia Southern
BYU 4:00 PM
Santa Clara
Gonzaga 4:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 4:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
Abilene Christian 4:00 PM
Lamar
Colorado State 4:00 PM
Fresno State
New Mexico 4:00 PM
San Jose St
UC Davis 4:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
San Diego 4:00 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 4:00 PM
McNeese State
TX A&M-CC 4:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
Old Dominion 4:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Tenn Tech 4:00 PM
Belmont
Eastern Washington 4:00 PM
Idaho
Stetson 4:00 PM
Lipscomb
Washington 4:30 PM
California
USC 4:30 PM
(7) Oregon State
IUPU-Ft Wayne 4:30 PM
Western Ill
Northwestern St 4:30 PM
SE Louisiana
SE Missouri St 4:30 PM
Austin Peay
Portland State 5:00 PM
Montana State
Columbia 5:00 PM
Brown
Northern Colorado 5:00 PM
Weber State
Charlotte 5:00 PM
FIU
(19) Princeton 5:00 PM
Dartmouth
Penn 5:00 PM
Harvard
UT Martin 5:00 PM
Murray State
Troy 5:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Morgan State 77 FINAL
Howard 64
Alabama State 5:30 PM
Texas Southern
Jacksonville St 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Wyoming 6:00 PM
Nevada
Oklahoma St 6:00 PM
Iowa State
CS-Bakersfield 6:00 PM
Seattle
La Salle 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Cal-Irvine 6:00 PM
Cal Poly
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Northern Ariz
Green Bay 7:00 PM
Illinois-Chicago
Cal State Fullerton 9:00 PM
Long Beach St
CS-Northridge 9:00 PM
Hawaii
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close