NHL Rookie Watch: Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida Panthers



Date of birth: 06/04/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 171
Shoots: Left
Drafted: 1st round, 3rd overall in 2011 by Florida



Since the day Jonathan Huberdeau was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, fans of the goal-starved Florida Panthers have been eagerly awaiting his arrival. After being returned to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL for more seasoning following his first training camp and a slight delay due to the lockout this season, he finally made his debut on January 13th and promptly scored one goal and added two assists in a 5-1 opening night win over the Carolina Hurricanes. With a, dare I say it, Gretzky-esque four-point performance (2G/2A) in a 5-2 thumping of the Philadelphia Flyers on February 21st, Huberdeau rocketed himself into serious consideration for the Calder Trophy. The Panther winger finds himself first in rookie goals with eight and second in rookie points with thirteen, trailing only Cory Conacher of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Huberdeau also boasts a plus-three rating, a noteworthy accomplishment as the Panthers have been outscored by a wide margin this season.

At the rate Huberdeau is going, he should have no trouble finishing in the top five in Calder voting. I would not be at all surprised if he walked away with the trophy when all is said and done. He is blessed with the hands of a deadly goal-scorer and despite his slight build has no qualms about going to the front of the net to get rewarded. He is also an elite passer, hard worker and money on breakaways; already notching a shootout winner and a penalty shot goal. It took the nineteen-year-old all of sixteen games to become the Panthers leading scorer for a spell and he seems to have found what it takes to score consistently at the highest level. With the increase in production he is seeing increased ice time and responsibility. This trend should continue as his line is clearly Florida’s best trio. With Peter Mueller already enjoying a strong sniping campaign, if fellow rookie Drew Shore can start finding the back of the net and help pad Huberdeau’s assist total, then watch out. That development would likely push Huberdeau past the point-per-game mark and increase his chance at Calder glory.


The Good: Huberdeau is a special offensive talent who regularly finds ways to dazzle observers with his unique level of skill. He’s got true plus-plus hands with the ability to make rapid moves with the puck effortlessly. Huberdeau is so creative and finds ways to freeze defenders in their place or have them make a mistake in their gap control. He’s also got plus hockey sense showing very good vision. His sense translates to his play with the puck as Huberdeau shows great patience and always knows the right way to attack a defense. He’s a decent skater as well.

The Bad: Hubderdeau’s physical game is his main issue as he’s still a skinny player who needs to put on more muscle before he can be a truly effective NHLer.

Projection: He could be an All-Star forward.


Jonathan Huberdeau has done a great job living up to the hype of being a third-overall draft pick. So far the 19-year-old has eight goals and 13 points in 20 games including nine in his last 13. Perhaps the biggest positive is that his ice time, both overall and on the power play, have remained steady throughout the season indicating that the coaching staff has high confidence in him.

Long-term the sky is the limit for Huberdeau as his elite-level skills will translate into many productive years in the NHL. The Panthers are definitely lacking in top forwards so he will get every opportunity to become the franchise player that they hope he becomes.

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VIDEO: Jonathan Huberdeau scores his first NHL goal 1/19/13


Mark is the NHL editor for Sports City and myNHLtraderumors.com. Lives north of Toronto in the snow-belt, not a big fan of snow. Despises lockouts.

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