New Penguin Nick Bjugstad finds quick chemistry with fellow Gopher Phil Kessel


Well-known member
Nov 11, 2008
Reaction score
per the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

As a teenager living just outside Minneapolis, Nick Bjugstad watched a lot of Gophers games. He admired a fabulous freshman forward named Phil Kessel, who put up 51 points in 39 games in his one season at the University of Minnesota before going to the NHL.

A few years later, Bjugstad attended Minnesota, too, and throughout his three successful years there kept tabs on what Kessel was up to.

That continued while Bjugstad was making a name, albeit a tricky one to pronounce at first (it’s BYOOG-stad), for himself with the Florida Panthers, who drafted him with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft.

When Bjugstad arrived in Pittsburgh Friday after the Penguins traded Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan and three 2019 picks to acquire Bjugstad and fellow forward Jared McCann from the Panthers, he thought he had a good idea of who Kessel was as a player.

Then he skated next to him.

“He’s got some elite vision,” said Bjugstad, who recorded five shots in 3-2 loss Saturday to the host Toronto Maple Leafs. “I knew he could shoot the puck. But he can really make plays, too. It’s going to come down to me bearing down on a few of these chances and it will start to click.”

With Evgeni Malkin out both games over the weekend due to an upper-body injury, Bjugstad and Kessel played on a line together, first with Bryan Rust and then a little bit of Dominik Simon on the left wing Saturday.

Perhaps that would have been the plan anyway had Malkin been healthy and in the lineup. After all, the Penguins tried a few times to make it work with Brassard and Kessel in the hopes that they could create a dangerous third line, which they feel is the optimal setup for postseason success.

In the past two games, Kessel may have displayed better offensive chemistry with Bjugstad than he did in a year playing on and off with Brassard — and that’s with Bjugstad jet-lagged and still grappling with the trade.

“I felt a little more comfortable system-wise [Saturday] because [Friday] was just showing up for the game, and wearing a Penguins jersey was pretty surreal,” Bjugstad said. “It happened so fast it was crazy.”

In the first period Saturday, Kessel at the Toronto blue line dished a timely pass to Bjugstad. The 6-foot-6 center cruised down the middle and alone on Garret Sparks, but the goalie gobbled up that quality chance.

Go Gophers!!
Top Bottom