|Jonathan Huberdeau, center, poses with Florida Panthers officials after he was drafted by the team in the first round of the National Hockey League entry draft, Friday June, 24, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy King) |
In a meeting with the Panthers on Thursday night, Panthers GM Dale Tallon told Saint John center/winger Jonathan Huberdeau
that he was their guy as long as the draft fell as it was expected.
That happened as Red Deer center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went first to Edmonton and Kitchener winger Gabriel Landeskog went second to Colorado, leaving the highly skilled skater for the Panthers to joyously snatch up with the third overall pick.
"We're excited. Really happy. It's really another big piece of the puzzle," said Panthers GM Dale Tallon following the first round. "A terrific young man firstly. Great player. Two way player. Unselfish passer. Passionate. Moves the puck and makes players better around him. He competes like heck."
"He's a heck of a young man and he's got a bright future," said Panthers director of scouting Scott Luce.
For Huberdeau, it will be like joining the enemy, at least in terms of fandom goes. His family from Laval, Quebec native would pack up an RV and head to South Florida every winter. They would stay at various places in South Florida and take in the annual Panthers/Canadiens game held on New Years Eve.
"Every Christmas I would go to Florida and go see their game against the Canadiens," said Huberdeau. "It's cool that I have a chance to go there."
"We have a motor home so we would drive from Quebec...We stay everywhere. Sleep everywhere including Wal-Mart."
"I think we can upgrade him from the Wal-Mart to the BankAtlantic Center," joked Luce Thursday if that was the direction the club would go in selecting Huberdeau. "I think that's fair to say. We'll even put initials in the parking lot probably...He said that at the combine about coming down and it was a nice ice breaker of a story at the combine so we kind of built our interview from that."
With Huberdeau now the newest Panther, it's safe to say that there will be some more Panthers fans in the building. Huberdeau was joined by his 15 family and friends for Friday night's festivities.
"It's a great feeling to be called by Florida," said Huberdeau. "It's a great team I think and it's been a dream since I was young to get called and get a foot in the door...I'm glad that Florida picked me."
"As close as we came to the start of the draft, we were nervous about him and to know where he would go, which team he would be drafted," said Huberdeau's father, Alain. "In the end I think I was more nervous than him. It ended well. It's all good because we're really grateful that they (Florida) took him."
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|2011 NHL ENTRY DRAFT |
Right Off The Hop Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com
Now that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the answer to who's the No. 1 pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, next question … will he be able to earn a roster spot with the Edmonton Oilers in his first season?
READ MORE ›
Huberdeau rocketed up the draft charts after a year long assault on the stat sheet. Following a rookie season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in which he posted 35 points, he exploded this past season helping lead Saint John to the league's best record. Huberdeau posted 43 goals and 62 assists for 105 points in 67 games, setting a new franchise record for assists and points in a season.
"I think I'm a two-way player. I have good vision but can play defensive and play offensive zone too," said Huberdeau when describing his game. "I think I have good skills."
Huberdeau followed up his spectacular regular season with an even more eye-popping post-season. He won the QMJHL MVP award after posting 16 goals and 14 assists in just 19 games, helping the Sea Dogs to a QMJHL title and a spot in the Memorial Cup. Then he went on to post six points (four goals) in four games to pick up the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the 2011 Memorial Cup MVP and help the Sea Dogs hoist the Memorial Cup.
"It just got better month by month by month. He just keeps getting better, playing harder and he's a stronger kid now, getting bigger," said Saing John head coach Gerard Gallant. "That's what you want to see in young kids. He's a character kid and is more confident in himself now. He's like our team. He knows he's a good player and he works hard and gets better."
While the modest Huberdeau states that he likes to be more of a two-way player, posting 141 points (62 goals) in 90 games this past year shows that he has the ability to post the numbers. Look up clips on youtube and you'll see that the recently turned 18-year old (June 4th) has a lot of offensive flair.
"I think I like to do some spin-o-rama (moves) on the ice. But I don't know," said Huberdeau. "I just started to do that this year. I don't try to do the perfect play and the offensive play every time. Sometimes it works and sometimes you have to shoot more and bring the puck to the net."
“He's the type of player who can change the outcome of a game suddenly and quickly," said NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau. "He's displayed unbelievably quick hands and an ability to set up and score goals. He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability . . . he's also gritty and does not back down when challenged.”
He will bring his dynamic playing style to South Florida, when the Panthers host their development camp in mid July and then when rookie and training camp opens in September.
When asked Thursday night at the meetings where he'll be come next season, he answered playing in Florida and with that, having his family see him play come December 31st.
"I think I can help the team and bring some vision. I have good vision and skills. I can play under pressure like I showed in the Memorial Cup.
"I just want to make the team first and just want to play next year if I can. I'm going to work very hard and if I can make something for the team, I'll do it."
"He's going to get every opportunity to play," said Tallon. "Like I said. It doesn't matter with me on age or draft position but he's a really good player that can play center, any forward position. The one thing about Jonathan is that he's very responsible defensively as well so he can play and not hurt you as far as the defense. A lot of the young kids that are offensive don't have the ability to help you defensively as well but Jonathan is so well rounded that he can play at both ends of the rink."