Jonathan Huberdeau is a lock to make the roster. The third-overall pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft is a career 1.28 point per game player in the QMJHL for the Saint John Sea Dogs, and their captain as well. While Huberdeau has the potential to play in all situations, he's only 19 years old (and won't be 20 until June) and hasn't played a full season beyond junior level hockey. As any player will tell you, making the jump from Canadian juniors to the NHL isn't easy. So can what we expect from the future star of the franchise in his first season of the NHL?
Teenagers who have scored 50+ points since the lockout:
- Sidney Crosby
- Matt Duchene
- Patrick Kane
- Anze Kopitar
- Gabriel Landeskog
- Peter Mueller (now with FLA)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- John Tavares
- Jonathan Toews
While leading the Panthers in scoring would be a wonderful surprise, it's not very likely. Huberdeau scored 72 points in 37, averaging 1.94 points per game with very talented Sea Dogs. Using the NHLe formula, Huberdeau points adjusted to NHL were 19 goals, 26 assists, and 45 points.
So how would Huberdeau be used by the Panthers? My best guess would be as the replacement for departed free agent Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson played most of his ice time on the second line with Sean Bergenheim and Marcel Goc (who are now expected to be on the third line), while playing over two minutes on the powerplay and only three seconds on the penalty kill.
He's expected to join Mueller and Scottie Upshall on the second line, as well as the second powerplay unit. Samuelsson played only 48 games with the Panthers and scored 28 points, 0.58 points per game. While it is a small sample size, Samuelsson's point per game average is close to Huberdeau's NHLe points per game at 0.55.
While Huberdeau's size is a problem for some, he does has the talent to play top-six minutes, as well as secondary powerplay minutes in the NHL. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who NHL.com has weighted at 175, played 62 games, averaging 14:33 minutes at even strength and 3:00 minutes on the powerplay (and one second shorthanded). He scored 52 points (0.84 points per game) which was good enough for third on an Oilers team that scored nine more goals than the Panthers.
Nugent-Hopkins isn't the only undersized teenager to have success in the NHL. The 2010-11 Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Jeff Skinner, played 13:31 even-strength minutes a night, with 3:10 powerplay minutes.
There are a lot of other factors that go into projecting a player's season (health, roster transactions, etc), but the Panthers can expect a solid, but not spectacular season from its future star.