As a former third overall draft pick, Jonathan Huberdeau has had high expectations to live up to in South Florida. Based on his play during the 2014-2015 season, however, there should be no concern over the future of the team's young star, as he showed that he's capable of playing a top-six role in the NHL at the tender age of 22.
A large part of Huberdeau's success in the 2014-2015 centered around his fine neutral zone play, as he displayed a knack for creating turnovers, either by intercepting passes, or by simply stripping the puck from his opponents.
The young winger was also very good at moving the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone. His passing skills and vision created plenty of scoring chances for his teammates on the rush, as the former QMJHL standout was able to get the puck to his linemates in space.
Does Huberdeau have blazing speed? No. Don't expect highlight reel goals from him, as he doesn't really have the speed to fly down the wing, dangle around a defenseman, and roof the puck on the goaltender.
Is he fast enough to be effective in space? Yes.
Against particularly slow defensemen, the 22-year-old is able to use his speed and stick skills to create offense while on the rush.
While in the offensive zone, Huberdeau uses his awareness, puck protection skills, and passing ability to help the team maintain control of the biscuit along the boards until an opportunity arises. From there, he has high-end vision that allows him to thread passes to teammates who are in open areas.
The only drawbacks to Huberdeau's game is that he sometimes turns the puck over in the defensive zone, and that he gives up good shooting opportunities in order to make a pass.
Overall, the young winger is a highly skilled offensive player who plays solid defense and controls the pace of play, either by keeping the puck on his stick through the neutral zone, or by controlling the puck along the boards.
Huberdeau's underlying metrics are encouraging, as he is positive throughout all of them and has a very high rate of points per 60 minutes of ice time. There really isn't any thing that the numbers show that we couldn't already tell with the eye test, as Huberdeau appears to be a productive, top-six winger who helps the team possess the puck and outscore the opposition. Playing a full year with Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr should help him elevate his game to the next level, and it wouldn't be too surprising to see him hit 70 points.
(If you want a more in depth breakdown of Huberdeau's offensive statistics, check out our breakdown of the team's passing statistics, that was done back at the start of the Season in Review Series.)
There is no reason to be concerned about Jonathan Huberdeau. His sophomore slump was just an unlucky year in terms of percentages, and his game has grown since his rookie season. He is now a well-rounded offensive player, who doesn't slack off on defense, and will help the team win hockey games in 2015-2016.
I truly believe that next year will be the 22-year-old's coming out party. He has incredible offensive potential, and a playing with a true top-six center (Barkov, Bjugstad, or even Trocheck) will do wonders for his production. 70 points truly isn't out of the question for the young winger.