Courtesy of Point Park University

The 2019-20 prospectus: Nick Bjugstad


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The Penguins' longest off-season in a number of years has entered the stretch drive, with a little more than a month to go before the start of training camp.

This is the second installment in a series of profiles of members of their major-league roster, as listed alphabetically on the team's website. There will be one each weekday until all players have been addressed.


Age: 27
Size: 6 foot 6, 215 pounds
Position: Center
Acquired: Trade with Florida, 2019
Salary-cap hit: $4.1 million, through 2020-21
2018-19 NHL stats: Fourteen goals, 12 assists in 64 games (including nine goals, five assists in 32 games with Penguins)

How he fits: Bjugstad has a lot of the qualities that teams seek in a third-line center, and that's the niche he figures to fill with the Penguins. However, Mike Sullivan used him on the wing at times last season, and he could get some work there again, if needed. Bjugstad might see some duty on the No. 2 power play, as well.

Shortcomings: Seven seasons into his NHL career, Bjugstad hasn't managed to produce offense with the consistency that can reasonably be expected of a player with his size and skills set. He has scored more than 19 goals just once (24 in 2014-15) and hasn't shown much more than ordinary playmaking/passing ability.

Strengths: You can't coach size, and Bjugstad has a lot more of it than most players. When he uses it to protect the puck and bull past defenders, he can be a real asset for the puck-possession game the Penguins prefer. Bjugstad also has shown good vision and instincts, as well as a quick release on his shot.

Hidden variable: While Bjugstad was with Florida, many people -- including then-Panthers coach Bob Boughner -- believed he was most effective on right wing, even though he has spent most of his career in the middle.

2019-20 expectations: Bjugstad was widely expected to be the centerpiece of the trade that sent Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan to the Panthers, but was overshadowed by the strong play of Jared McCann. He can be effective as a No. 3 center and his versatility is a plus, but with that salary-cap hit and the Penguins' collection of guys who can play multiple positions, his name figures to circulate anytime Jim Rutherford is looking to trim the payroll, as he is now.

The big question: Can Bjugstad's game finally match the sum of its parts, allowing him to become the impact performer he has the potential to be?

All profiles to date can be found here.

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