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This is the first of many players I'll be recommending as potentially very good picks that will often be available in later rounds of fantasy hockey drafts this season. I usually play in leagues that count shots, hits, PIM, PPP and the usual G, A, sometimes +/- and blocks too.
Here's why Nick Bjugstad is a SmartPick
Name, Position: Nick Bjugstad, C
: He just turned 23 this summer and already has two full seasons of experience
: 6'6, 218! Not many centers this big in the league. He had over 115 hits in his first full season and over 145 last year in only 72 games. That's a 168-hit pace in a full season.
: He only managed 16 two years ago but really improved last season with 24 (team leader in goals, 7 were PPG). That was as a 22 year old and I imagine he is only going to be stronger this year.
: 185 in 13-14, 207 in 14-15 (235-shot pace)
: As if you could ask for anymore, he was drafted 19th overall in 2010.
: Florida did deceivingly well last season, only 7 points behind Pittsburgh for the final playoff seed and 5 points behind Boston. A sign of inexperience, they were dominant at home but couldn't find the same success out of town. Bjugstad should easily crack the top six after leading the team in goals last season, along with Barkov, Jagr, Huberdeau, and possibly Reilly, Pirri, Jokinen or Bolland. Florida is an up an coming team who could see breakout years from Bjugstad, Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad or even see Pirri become a star after his crazy last season.
Bjugstad is going into his 23 year old season with already two years of around that 40-point rookie pace. Throw in 12 PPP and 40 PIM and Bjugstad could be one of the biggest steals of the season if he can build off his last two seasons. I'd like to see at least 20 goals and 50 points this season to go along with 200+ shots and 150+ hits, most likely similar or better PPP.
The only bad stat Bjugstad has carried over the past two seasons is plus/minus, which improved to only -7 last season, as result of playing on an improved Panthers team than two years ago when he had a -14. I'm expecting Florida to surprise fantasy owners this season so keep tabs on Bjugstad if he's a free agent in your league or a deeper draft pick! Players like him who cover multiple statistics win leagues!
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