The 2011 NHL Scouting Combine has wrapped up and now all eyes are on St. Paul, MN for the weekend of June 24-25. For at least one top prospect, it seems as though the 2010-11 campaign has yet to close.
Jonathan Huberdeau’s Saint John Sea Dogs lost only seven times in regulation this past year, recording 58 wins and 119 points to easily capture the QMJHL’s top spot. That success continued into the post-season, where Saint John eventually went on to win the Memorial Cup in Mississauga.
Huberdeau notched 43 goals and 105 points during the regular season, adding 30 points in 19 playoff games to lead the Sea Dogs to a Memorial Cup berth. There, he accumulated six points (three goals, three assists) in four games to help Saint John win the CHL’s championship trophy.
The 6’1”, 170-pound pivot also captured the Memorial Cup MVP award for his dominance during the weeklong event.
"It's a great feeling to go there and a great experience, too,” Huberdeau said. "It makes you a better player because you can play against the best teams in the CHL.
"I know I was able to show my game there, but there were some guys that didn't have the chance to go, so I don't know if [my performance] will help much. It was nice to go and play there and to win it, too.”
To suggest Huberdeau’s 2010-11 season was successful would be an understatement. He continued to climb NHL Central Scouting’s rankings throughout the year, eventually landing in the No. 3 spot behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
and Gabriel Landeskog among North American skaters.
Huberdeau, 18, brings an array of skill that includes near NHL-ready hands, elite playmaking talent and an underrated physical side. Even with such an extensive skill-set to play with, Huberdeau is humble when speaking about his own personal success.
"I think it's easier to play with good players,” he said. "I played all year with Zack Phillips (ranked No. 15) and I think he's a great player. When you play with those players and with the team we had, I think it was easier to play and to have fun. Especially when you're winning.”
Immediately following that experience, he was thrust into the spotlight once again at the NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto. He, along with hundreds of other prospects, spent several days meeting with various NHL teams at a hotel near Pearson Airport.
While the interviews were mentally exhausting, Huberdeau explained that the value in that opportunity was impossible to replicate. As such, he took full advantage and made the most of his chance with each club.
"I got to meet with the GMs of all the teams, and it was really nice to get to know them,” Huberdeau explained. "They know you’re a little nervous, but there was no need to be. They just want to get to know you.
"There weren’t a lot of funny questions.”
And that was only part one. The event closed with a challenging physical test that pushed all 100 prospects in a demanding two-hour circuit.
"I think I did well,” Huberdeau said. "I was a little bit tired and didn't get a lot of rest, but I think I did my best and that's all that matters.
"[The Wingate] was the hardest one. It’s not long, but it’s a 'long' 30 seconds. I kept my breakfast down; didn’t have to use the garbage,” he smiled.
Perhaps most impressively, each prospect seemed to take the event in stride. Although there were literally hundreds of NHL and media personnel looking on, Huberdeau’s focus was directed solely at his physical task.
"You try not to look at them,” he said. "You’ve got to focus on what you’re doing. It could be a distraction, but I was really working hard on my tests so I didn’t care that people were watching.”
Huberdeau also had the unique opportunity to share his experience with three of his Saint John teammates. Zack Phillips, Tomas Jurco and Scott Oke both attended the Combine and are possible opening round selections as well. As the Laval, QC native explained, it was a good opportunity to share memories, ease nervousness and look ahead.
"We talk all the time. We’re all so happy for each other, so it doesn’t really matter where we go. I’m happy for those guys and am excited to be there in Minnesota with them.”
With Huberdeau in the running to go with the No. 1 overall selection, his focus remains the same. An intense summer of training is ahead on the horizon, setting the stage for training camp in the fall -- wherever that may be.
"You want to play as fast as you can. I'll do everything this summer to get ready and to be ready for training camp.”
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com