Nick Bjugstad to Start Saturday Against Washington

Just hours after I published my article pondering the future of top prospect Nick Bjugstad, the Florida Panthers announced that the hulking centerman would be joining the club for the remainder of the 2013 season. Considering the Panthers remained relatively dormant at the deadline, the news of Bjugstad’s ascension should be the hot topic for Panthers’ fans heading into the upcoming weekend.

“Nick is going to be here,” Tallon said. “We have 11 games left. This will be a good learning experience for him. If he does well, it will make it that much easier for him at training camp next year. It’s a good chance to evaluate him.” - Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon told George Richards of the Miami Herald.

The 20-year old Bjugstad is the 3rd player from the Panthers’ 2010 draft class to make his NHL debut, joining Erik Gudbranson and Quinton Howden. Although the Panthers prefer not to rush their prospects, Bjugstad’s NHL-ready 220 lb. frame should ease some of that reluctance as his body is already more than prepared to withstand the rigors of the pro game.

The main drawback to Bjugstad signing his 3-year entry level contract on Wednesday is the fact that he will burn 1-year of his ELC just to play out the final month of the 2012-2013 season. However, considering the Panthers could have once again lost him to the allure of the University of Minnesota, the team decided that it was a necessary evil in order to get Bjugstad’s pro-career underway.

Currently just 8 points out of a playoff spot, Bjugstad’s debut against the Capitals will not only be the first game of his pro career, but also possibly the Panthers’ biggest game of the season. Although he has an impressive offensive skill set, look for Bjugstad to rely on his physical game this weekend as he most likely winds up on the Panthers’ 3rd or 4th line.

Bjugstad becomes the third Minnesota Gopher to announce his jump to the pro-level within the past few days, joining fellow upperclassmen Nate Schmidt and Zach Budish.

Thanks for reading and be sure to tune in to Nick Bjugstad’s NHL debut on Saturday against the Capitals at 7:30 p.m. on FOX SPORTS Florida. We welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

Follow All Panther Parkway writers on Twitter: Me @JamesonCoop, Frank Rekas @FrankRekas, Josh Luecht @eyesonsunrise, Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, Paige Lewis @PaigeLewisFL, Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger, Amanda Land @HockeyGirl2530 and David Lasseter @davidlasseter. Visit our Facebook fan page here and give us a like and share anything you wish with us.

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