Man, this was a tough decision. The Florida Panthers have a lot of young talent who I would like to see wear the blue and gold of the Buffalo Sabres – Calder Trophy-winner Jonathan Huberdeau, for example, or the second pick in this year’s draft, Aleksander Barkov. I like to stay away from the obvious picks if I can, though, and picking either of those two young talents would be pretty obvious.
Instead, I decided to focus on Nick Bjugstad.
Nick Bjugstad, F.
Yeah, yeah yeah – I know what you’re going to say. Why pick a kid who managed one goal and a +/- of -8 in 11 games with the Panthers last year? There have to be other players on the team who I would want to see play for the Sabres, right? Aside from the two obvious choices I have already mentioned, no – there really isn’t anyone on the Panthers I would want more than Bjugstad.
First of all, the dude’s a giant! He’s 6’6″ and 215 lbs, great dimensions for a blueliner . . . but the kid currently plays center, and will probably spend most of his career as a second-line power forward. If you will indulge my nerdiness and allow me to channel my inner Yoda: easy to get off of the puck or out of the crease he will not be.
Second, every scouting report I have read on this kid includes the word, “sniper.” Is there a better word used to describe a hockey forward? Not to me! It was just this morning that I was having a friendly discussion with a reader about how the Sabres need to acquire some young snipers in next year’s draft – well, here’s one right here! Bjugstad has a scorer’s mentality, and the shot to go with it. He would be the finishing touch on the Sabres’ second line, giving them the second quality scoring line the team desperately needs.
Then there’s the intangibles, the stuff that won’t show up in a player’s Corsi rating or a team’s Player Usage Charts. By all accounts, Bjugstad is a hell of a hard worker, and is a humble kid who doesn’t really crave the spotlight. Having said that, he wants the puck and wants to win, an attribute that his career numbers at the University of Minnesota support: 33-29-62 in just 69 games played. He may not ever become a first-line player in the NHL, but no team’s roster consists of merely first-line players. The Sabres needed consistent scoring from their second unit all of last season, and getting Nick Bjugstad would go a long way to solve that problem, which is why he is the player on the Florida Panthers I would most want to see playing for the Buffalo Sabres.