SUNRISE, Fla. – The former No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Jonathan Huberdeau cemented himself as one of the league’s up-and-coming playmakers during his fourth season with the Florida Panthers.
A key contributor on Florida’s top-scoring line, the 23-year-old winger set new career marks in goals (20), points (59), plus/minus (plus-17) and average ice time (18:09) in 76 games played.
“I think this year was more about consistency in my play,” Huberdeau said of his offensive improvement. “I think that’s what I was looking was for. Of course the points weren’t coming at first, but you knew it was going to come at some point... I want to be a two-way player, so it’s important to come back and be ready for next season.”
With stick in hand, Huberdeau’s play this past season often resembled that of an established conductor leading a large symphony orchestra in song, choreographing the movement of his teammates in the offensive zone in order to set up high-quality scoring chances. His 39 assists were second to only veteran forward Jussi Jokinen among Panthers skaters, and the team owned a 23-5-3 record in games in which he recorded at least one dish.
“I’ve always been a playmaker,” a grinning Huberdeau said. “Next year, it’s going to be the same thing.”
In his first taste of playoff action, Huberdeau fired a team-high 34 shots on net, but accumulated only three points (1-2—3) in six games as the Panthers fell to the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
After spending the first three years of his promising career outside of the playoff picture, Huberdeau admits that although the first-round exit was certainly tough to stomach at first, both he and the Panthers will be back and better than ever come next season.
“I think I learned from that,” Huberdeau said of his first postseason experience. “You never want to lose. You work all season to get there and then you lose in double overtime. It’s tough, but it’s always a learning process. We’re going to come back next year.
“I’m going to work on a lot of stuff in the summer and come back next year and be even more stronger and more confident.”
Although he is mainly known for his ability to dazzle on offense, Huberdeau has quietly become Florida’s foremost authority in another, somewhat unheralded, statistic – drawing penalties.
With rapid reflexes and an unrelenting motor, Huberdeau credits his fancy footwork and on-ice determination for helping him lead the Panthers in penalties drawn for the fourth consecutive season.
“I try to keep my feet moving a little bit to get something going,” Huberdeau told FloridaPanthers.com earlier in the season. “When you work hard, you draw penalties. I guess it’s been happening a lot since I got here. I guess I’ve got to keep doing that.”
Huberdeau had two goals and an assist as the Panthers blew out the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Feb. 2.
"Every game we want to show we're a really good team, and tonight we showed it," Huberdeau said after the game. "We know we're a good team. We know we believe in ourselves."
GOAL OF THE YEAR
I still can’t fully comprehend this one.
After taking a big hit from Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, Huberdeau, while falling rapidly towards the ice, somehow musters enough strength to snipe the puck over the shoulder of goaltender Thomas Greiss to open the scoring in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.