ST. PUAL, Minn. – He may not be heading to a hockey bed and his selection may have been overshadowed a bit by a trade, but Jonathan Huberdeau is happy to be a member of the Florida Panthers.
“It’s a great feeling to be called for Florida. It’s a great team,’’ said Huberdeau, the Saint John Sea Dogs’ leading scorer, to the Miami Herald.
“It’s a dream since you’re young, and now to get called it’s a foot in the door to make the NHL. I can’t ask for anything more this season. I did everything on the ice I had to do for the Memorial Cup, so that was great, and I’m happy that Florida took me. I’ve always had that dream to be drafted in the NHL and to go to the rink and always have fun. You need to have fun if you want to play hockey, and that’s what I’m doing right now.’’
Huberdeau certainly couldn’t have done more this season. He led the top team in the nation in scoring, was named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s playoff and Memorial Cup MVP. His incredible season capped off Friday night when the Panthers used the third overall pick to select the 18-year old forward.
“I think I had a good season,’’ Huberdeau said. “I’m going to work very hard to get stronger this summer and everything to get ready for Florida training camp.”
Miami isn’t a hockey hotbed by any means but Huberdeau seemed very happy with the selection. The Panthers’ draft picks were taken off the microscope a bit after they made a big trade to acquire Brian Campbell from Chicago Blackhawks.
After months of debating where Huberdeau would go in the draft, the debate now becomes whether or not the St. Jerome, Quebec product will start the season in the National Hockey League.
From the Panthers blog On Frozen Pond:
A good showing in training camp this fall, and he won't get a chance to defend his championship as he could play for the Panthers this season. Huberdeau knows it's probable that he'll be returned to his junior team for more seasoning this year – both Tallon and assistant GM Mike Santos say the days of rushing prospects in Florida is over.The Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Panthers blog added to that thought (written prior to the Campbell trade).
Huberdeau could be a year away although because the Panthers must spend at least $30 million dollars in payroll so they may sign him and last year’s No. 3 pick Erik Gudbranson for this season.The Panthers have struggled for several seasons and finished the 2010-11 campaign with a record of 30-40-12, the third worst in the NHL. They also finished fourth-to-last in goals scored.
"This is another big piece of the puzzle,'' Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said to the Sun-Sentinel. "Great player, two-way player, unselfish, passionate, moves the puck and makes players better around him.''
Florida fans (yes, they exist) seem generally pleased with the pick.
“Any offensive player in the top five in this draft is a huge boost for the Panthers in the long run,” writes Ryan Meier of The Litter Box. “Huberdeau provides some of the best offensive talent out of any of the skaters in the draft this year.”
Florida selected two other players from the QMJHL. Cape Breton’s Logan Shaw went 76th overall to the Panthers while Shawinigan’s Jonathan Racine went 87th overall.
Some videos from the draft…
Interview with TSN’s James Duthie:
NHL Network interview: