There was a moment last season when Jonathan Huberdeau appeared to flip a switch.
While it's difficult to pinpoint an exact date, Florida's 6-3 win over Montreal on Feb. 17 is pretty close. In that game, the 26-year-old winger finished with just one assist, but kicked off a four-game point streak in the process. In retrospect, it was small spark that ignited a roaring scoring blaze.
In the 26 games that followed, Huberdeau went on to post 17 goals and 23 assists to close out the regular season with new career-highs in goals (30), assists (62) and points (92). And during the club's locker clean out in April, he professed that he felt his game had turned a sharp corner.
"My game went up this year, especially in the second half," he said. "I just want to be more consistent out there. That's what I'm going to work on for next year and be good every game."
Picking up right where he left off, Huberdeau has continued to pile up the points this season while ascending to superstardom. Named to the first All-Star Game of his career on Monday, he leads the Panthers in goals (17), assists (38) and points (55) while playing in all 40 games.
"It's a great honor to be in the All-Star Game for the first time," said Huberdeau, who is on pace for 112 points, which would set a new franchise record. "I think I'm playing well this year, points are coming in. I'm just really happy. I think it's a great experience and I'm looking forward to it."
A man who certainly knows a thing or two about excellence on the ice is Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville. When asked about Huberdeau's campaign up until this point, the three-time Stanly Cup winning bench boss said he believes that he's piecing together a "special season."
"Great start to the year," Quenneville said. "He's had a great stretch here recently as well. He gets rewarded with an All-Star appearance. Very well deserved. He's got a hot stick right now."
Only just beginning to enter his prime, Huberdeau is looking like the player the Panthers thought he would be when they selected him with the third-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. Already the franchise's all-time leader in assists (271), he's quickly closing in on the points record, too.
And while top pundits around the league might still be labeling him as "underrated" along with teammate Aleksander Barkov, Huberdeau's numbers place him in some very elite company.
Dating back to the aforementioned game on Feb. 17, he ranks third in the NHL with 95 points in 66 games, trailing only Edmonton's Connor McDavid (97 points) and Leon Draisaitl (99 points).
"Since the beginning of last season and already this year, he's been one of the most dynamic scorers in the league," Panthers Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Dale Tallon said in a recent interview with FOX Sports Florida. "He's starting to take more of a leadership role, and he's been more consistent with his play. It's been fun to watch him play."
While there's still plenty of hockey left to be played as we near the halfway point of 2019-20, here a few other numbers that highlight how incredible Huberdeau's season has been thus far…
- 16: The amount of multi-point games he's posted this season. Tied with Barkov for the most multi-point performances on the team, Huberdeau has achieved six games with at least three points and three games with at least four points. Those big games have also resulted in wins for Florida this season, as the team owns a 13-1-2 record when Huberdeau tallies multiple points.
- 17: The amount of goals he's scored this season. It appears that years of coaches yelling "shoot more!" has finally had an effect on Huberdeau. Leading the Panthers with 17 goals, he's on pace to surpass the career-high 30 he netted in 2018-19. Still searching for his first NHL hat trick - a fact he likes to joke about - he's registered four two-goal games this season, including scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals in a 4-3 overtime win at Colorado on Oct. 30.
Video: FLA@COL: Huberdeau strikes quickly in overtime
- 19: The points he's put up on the man advantage. As many weapons as the Panthers have on their power-play (Barkov, Keith Yandle, Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, etc.), Huberdeau's 19 points with the extra attacker not only pace the team, but also rank tied for the sixth-most in the league. Of those points, three are goals and 16 are assists. With Huberdeau leading the charge, Florida's power play currently ranks sixth in the league with a very strong 24 percent success rate.
- 22: The amount of points he racked up in December. Honored as the NHL's "First Star of the Month" on Thursday, Huberdeau was tied for the most points in the league last month with six goals and 16 assists in 13 games. Cracking the scoresheet almost every time he took he ice, he had points in 10 of 13 games, including three four-point contests. Recording his seventh career four-point game on Dec. 29, he broke a tie with Pavel Bure (6) for the most in franchise history.
- 26: His primary assist total. It's important to remember that not all helpers are created equal. And while they all look the same on the scoresheet, primary assists likely deserve a bit more credit as secondary ones. A wizard with the puck on his stick, Huberdeau's 26 primary assists pace the Panthers by a wide margin (Barkov sits in second place with 17) and rank tied for the second-most in the league. Need an example? Check out the sweet dish to Noel Acciari below.
Video: OTT@FLA: Huberdeau sets up Acciari's second tally
- 55: His team-leading point total. Climbing all the way up into a tie for sixth in league-scoring, Huberdeau has been on fire in recent weeks. Over his last eight games, he's posted five multi-point performances while notching six goals and 12 assists. Reaching the 50-point plateau in his 38th game of the season on Dec. 29 against Montreal, he became the second-fastest Panther to hit that mark. Only Pavel Bure, who recorded his 50th point in 34 games in 1999-00, was faster.
- 420: Florida's all-time scoring record. That's right, we're officially on history watch from here on out. With 414 points, Huberdeau needs just six more to overtake Olli Jokinen (419) for the most points in franchise history. And, with how he's been playing lately, it likely won't take very long.
- 1042: The approximate number of miles he'll be traversing to get from Fort Lauderdale to St. Louis in order to participate in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25. The longest-tenured member of the Panthers, Huberdeau's first selection comes during his eighth NHL season.
"He deserves it," Barkov said. "Every year he's been playing unreal and finally he gets the recognition he deserves. I'm really happy for him and looking forward to seeing him there."
When asked about what event he'd like to compete in during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 24, Huberdeau, of course, said he hopes he gets to do something that involves passing.
"That's one of my strengths, so, obviously, I'd like to do that," he said.
Want to send Barkov to the All-Star Game with Huberdeau? You can make him the "Last Man In" by voting at NHL.com/Vote.