NHL Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers: Jonathan Huberdeau Is The Real Deal

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The first three picks of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft were as follows: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at No. 1, Gabriel Landeskog at No.2, and Jonathan Huberdeau followed up at No. 3.

Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog went on to have very fine seasons at the NHL level. Both looked like franchise cornerstones in just their first year, with Landeskog winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. RNH wasn’t far behind in the voting for the award. \

Huberdeau, on the other hand, was sent back to juniors for another season.

This season, it’s looking like this top three group of draft picks could be among the best ever, thanks mostly to the play of Huberdeau. Given a shot to make the team, he has proven he is the real deal for the Florida Panthers, and then some. His play of late has helped the Cats to climb out of a slump they were experiencing.

In just 17 games this season, Huberdeau already has 13 points, including eight goals. His goal total is tops among rookies and he’s second in points, behind Cory Conacher. He’s also sitting at a plus-3 right now, which is pretty solid for a Panthers team that isn’t even in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Huberdeau’s recent performance against the Philadelphia Flyers provided a nice example of what he’s going to bring to this franchise for what fans hope is a long time. He finished the game with a pair of goals and two assists, with one of the former coming on a penalty shot that made Ilya Bryzgalov look like an absolute fool.

It should come as no surprise that Huberdeau has been playing as well as he has for the Panthers. Coming into the draft, everyone knew how supremely talented he was at the offensive end, mostly due to the fantastic hands he brings to the table. When RNH and Landeskog return to completely healthy form, it will be fun to watch these three compete for a long time.

As of right now, Huberdeau is the favorite for the Calder Trophy. And if he continues at this pace, he’s going to win it in a runaway.