2009-10: Nick Bjugstad played for Blaine High School in Minnesota. In 25 games, Bjugstad scored 29 goals with 31 and 60 PIM and was named Mr. Hockey as the top high school player in Minnesota. He played in 23 games for Team North West in the Minnesota High School Elite League prior to his high school season and scored 13 goals with eight assists in 23 games.
2010-11: Bjugstad bounced back from some early season struggles and a bout with mononucleosis to have a strong freshman season for the University of Minnesota. He also competed for the bronze medal-winning USA squad at the 2011 World Junior U-20 championship. In 29 games for the Gophers he scored 8 goals with 12 assists and was +1 with 51 PMs. Bjugstad played in all situations for the WCHA's fifth-place Gophers (16-14-6). Bjugstad played six games for Team USA at the WJC and scored 2 goals with 2 assists and was +2. Both of his goals were game-winners.
2011-12: Bjugstad emerged as a goal scorer in his sophomore season at Minnesota, leading the Gophers with 25 goals in 40 games, and skated for the USA at the 2012 U20 World Junior Championship. Seventeen of his goals were scored on the Gophers' power play and he also had 17 assists and was plus-21 with 28 penalty minutes. Minnesota finished first in the WCHA after struggling to stay above .500 a year earlier. After an upset loss to North Dakota in the WCHA semifinals, the Gophers returned the favor in the NCAA West Regional final to reach the Frozen Four. Bjugstad shared the team lead in goals for seventh-place Team USA at the WJC with Sharks' prospect Charlie Coyle; scoring 4 goals with 2 assists and finishing plus-three in six games.
Bjugstad continued to develop during his sophomore season. His skating improved, as did his on-ice presence. He has high-end hockey sense that he displays at both ends of the ice and a strong wrist shot that he regularly puts on net. Bjugstad has multiple tools for attacking the opposition. He uses his size (he has grown to about 6’6, 220 pounds but should have a higher NHL weight) to create traffic at the front of the net or win puck battles along the boards and he pesters opposing players with his relentless forecheck. He uses his body well, both for physical play, puck protection, and positional play on defense. He projects as the kind of big, strong, first-line center that can dictate the pace of the game, or at worst become a talented second-line center with an active two-way game.
Bjugstad will return to the University of Minnesota for his junior season and another chance at a national title. It appears likely that he will sign his first professional contract soon thereafter, and could conceivably see some NHL action before the season ends depending on how far the Gophers’ post-season extends.