SUNRISE, Fla. -- Jonathan Huberdeau's five-point performance in Team Canada's 8-1 opening victory over Finland Monday was great to see for the Florida Panthers. But it wasn't exactly surprising.
Huberdeau, selected third by the Panthers in the 2011 Entry Draft, showed that kind of offensive ability when he led the team in scoring in the preseason.
"What did I think? Basically, what everyone else thought -- the kid is unreal," said Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who played for Team Canada last year. "I said this in training camp, it's unbelievable to watch him play. He doesn't necessarily take the hardest stride, he doesn't have the hardest shot, but he's by far the smartest player out there on any given night. He's always in the right position. He's certainly well warranted going third overall."
The Panthers sent Huberdeau back to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QJMHL before the start of the NHL season so he could mature physically and get stronger.
"He was a really close decision for us at training camp," coach Kevin Dineen said. "At the end of the day, for me I think it'll make him a better player down the line. You look at (Boston's) Tyler Seguin, the way he's exploded this year and the way that he felt his way through the season last year, the maturity level for an 18-year-old kid is so large. You look at our lineup, there's not too many with the exception of maybe Jovo (Ed Jovanovski) and (Dmitry) Kulikov that haven't put time in the American League and I think that's a good training ground. When he gets here, somewhere down the line, we'll rely heavily on him."
Dineen said he was able to watch about five minutes of Canada's rout of Finland.
"I saw Canada go up 4-1 and I saw him score that nice goal and I certainly liked to see that stat line today of him putting up the points," Dineen said. "It's exciting to see."