Nick Bjugstad hasn't been out and about in the Twin Cities lately, making it nearly impossible for the former Mr. Hockey and Gophers standout to get recognized.
"The only thing I do is Target pickup, [and] we go get a Dunn Bros coffee," Bjugstad said. "It's all drive-through."
But when he makes his Wild debut Thursday in the team's season opener at Los Angeles, the 28-year-old Bjugstad will be hard to miss.
After being bogged down by injury, Bjugstad is getting a chance to revitalize his career as one of the Wild's top centers between Zach Parise and Kirill Kaprizov — an assignment that raises the profile of the Blaine native's homecoming.
"It's a great opportunity," Bjugstad said recently during a video interview. "But at the same time, I gotta understand it's a big role and I'm excited to try and fill that space and play with those guys."
Bjugstad's arrival was the first of many roster changes for the Wild in the offseason. After he came over in a trade from Pittsburgh in September for a conditional draft pick, he wasn't sure what to expect.
That's because he was sidelined for most of 2019-20, first undergoing surgery for a core muscle injury before getting shelved again — this time requiring spinal surgery to repair a herniated disc.
In all, Bjugstad finished with a goal and assist in 13 games with the Penguins.
"I'm very fortunate to be able to continue to play here after a tough year and get the opportunity and chance," Bjugstad said. "So, I'm grateful. I've had all this time off to really become in-tune with my body, learn about my body, let my body rest, and it's been a good time off for me personally."
Now that he's back on the ice, Bjugstad is focused on rediscovering his game, and his spot between Parise and Kaprizov could be just the springboard he needs to find that offensive touch he had when he broke into the league with Florida.
"I've been in positions where I've played top-six," said Bjugstad, who scored a career-high 24 goals with the Panthers in 2014-15 after being drafted 19th overall by the organization in 2010. "I've played third line. I've played on the fourth line. So, I know what it's like to have a little success there. I know what it's like to have some failures. I can kind of take those experiences and use that to my advantage here being a little older and being a little more experienced.
"You can't play with fear. That's the biggest thing. You can't second-guess yourself."
What the Wild likes about Bjugstad up the middle is that he's a right shot with size (6 feet 6 and 208 pounds). His objective will be to use his frame to protect the puck and open up space for Parise and Kaprizov while also being responsible defensively and breaking up plays by the opposition.
"When you play with guys like that, it excites me because guys are hungrier on the puck and that's something I like to do on the forecheck — hunt pucks down and create tough opportunities for the other defensemen," Bjugstad said. "I think it's pretty clear I'm playing with two skilled guys, so sometimes I may muck it up and get them the puck and let them shoot."
Aside from being a newcomer in a prominent position, Bjugstad also has the added attention of playing for his childhood team — a return home that isn't always easy to navigate.
But what the 28-year-old believes can help him deliver on the ice is also what's dictating his perspective on being back, and that's what he has gone through to get here.
"I'm going into it knowing what a fortunate thing of being able to play at home [is], in front of the people that I've grown up with that have made me better," Bjugstad said. "I love this state. It's definitely exciting to know that that's another factor, but the pressure and all the external things — I come to realize that that can make it harder on yourself if you want to or you can choose to take advantage of being home and use this opportunity as a positive."