Though it took him a year after fellow top three draft picks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog has already made their debuts, Jonathan Huberdeau proved to be more than worth the wait for the Florida Panthers. In fact, his 2013 campaign was miles better than either of the top two Calder finalists from the previous season.
The 2013 season was a pretty miserable one for the Panthers overall, as they went from a playoff contender in 2011-12 to the bottom of the league in the lockout shortened season. But the debut of Huberdeau prove to be a major bright spot for this team over the course of the year.
Huberdeau took home the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, beating out fellow finalists Brandon Saad and Brendan Gallagher. He finished tied for the league lead in points among rookies, with 31 on the year, 14 of them being goals, good for third among first-year players.
While he had streaks where he failed to show up on the stat sheet, that’s to be expected of any first year player. He was able to minimize them throughout the year and pieced together a pretty consistent campaign. The question is whether or not he can avoid a letdown in his second year.
Both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog failed to replicate the success they found in their rookie season. For Nugent-Hopkins, some of that was a change of role, while Landeskog had an issue staying healthy early on and was never able to find his footing as the season wore on.
For Huberdeau, though, the 2013-14 season could bring even more success, rather than less. He’ll have an improved and healthy team around him, which should help his production go up. Not only that, as an individual Huberdeau will be healthy, as he underwent surgery to repair a nagging hip that had been bothering him all season.
Which means that rather than a regression, we could see an increase in level of play from Huberdeau. He’s a future star in Florida and we should see plenty more of that in 2013-14.