In 2011 the Florida Panthers finished towards the bottom of the standings for the second straight season and held the third overall selection at the NHL Entry Draft. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog going one and two in the draft Dale Tallon stepped to the podium and selected Jonathan Huberdeau, who had just led the Saint John Sea Dogs to a Memorial Cup Championship earning tournament MVP.
Huberdeau was also named to the tournaments All-Star team as well as being named to the QMJHL‘s First All-Star team. Prior to the season Huberdeau was seen as a solid draft pick, but with strong play recording 43g and 62a in just 67 games, along with Memorial Cup MVP honors he shot up the draft rankings.
Entering the 2011-2012 NHL season Huberdeau attended the Florida Panthers rookie camp and training camp, where in 5 pre-season games he led the Panthers with 3g and 1a. He was sent back to his junior team however, as Tallon had stated he would not rush his prospects and many believed Huberdeau could benefit from gaining some weight and muscle. With the Sea Dogs in a shortened season due to NHL training camp and injuries Huberdeau recorded 30g 42a in just 37gp, leading the team to its second straight league championship. However they would be eliminated from the Memorial Cup tournament as they attempted back to back championships.
At the Florida Panthers prospect camp this past July Tallon had stated there would be a few roster slots available for players like Huberdeau and it was basically his spot to lose. Looking ahead to the future, management and fans are excited for the day Huberdeau makes his NHL debut. Florida has never had such a highly touted prospect in their system as Huberdeau and while they have always struggled offensively he could very well help turn that around. He could turn out to be the most exciting player to lace up the skates in a Florida uniform since Pavel Bure 10 years ago, and there’s hope he’ll be just as gifted offensively.
Fun Fact: Huberdeau’s family traveled to Florida annually during the winter months and attended the Florida Panthers vs. Montreal Canadiens game that took place each year on New Years Eve. Traveling in a motorhome and staying wherever they could park for the night, Scott Luce Florida’s director of scouting joked that they would have a better parking spot the next time they traveled down.
Jonathan Huberdeau being drafted at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Interview during the Florida Panthers prospect camp, July 2012.
Highlights from Huberdeau’s junior career in Saint John.