Panthers sign ’10 first-rounder Bjugstad to entry-level deal

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One of the most highly-touted prospects in the Florida organization is going pro.

That’s the word out of Sunrise on Wednesday as the Panthers announced they’ve signed Nick Bjugstad to an entry-level deal.

Bjugstad, 20, was Florida’s first-round pick (19th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

He’s spent the last three seasons with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers — scoring 46 goals over the last two seasons — and represented Team USA at the 2011 and ’12 World Junior Championships, capturing a bronze medal in ’11.

Bjugstad’s name has been a popular one in NHL circles over the last year, despite him playing collegiate hockey.

Last fall, a report surfaced that Florida was reluctant to give up Bjugstad in a potential Roberto Luongo deal, leading many to speculate that Vancouver GM Mike Gillis had requested the 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward in any Luongo-related trade.

It’s possible that Florida will bring Bjugstad straight to the NHL for some seasoning, though they could opt to send him straight to AHL San Antonio.