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Florida Panthers Top 25 Under 25: #4 Jonathan Huberdeau

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Armed with a new 2-year contract and poised to start a full season with fellow possession beasts Jaromir Jagr and Sasha Barkov, Huberdeau has both the talent and circumstances to hit it big this season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Huberdeau

Position: Left Wing

Birthdate: 06/04/93 (22)

Acquired: Drafted 1st round (#3 Overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft

2014-15 Team/League: Florida Panthers (NHL)

Stats:

GP G A PTS PIM +/-
79 15 39 54 38 +10

Nationality: Canadian

Size: 6'1", 188 pounds

Contract Status: Signed for two more seasons for AAV of $3.25 million

If I told you that you could have a 3rd overall NHL draft pick- used on a player projected to be a top-line forward, who would win the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie in his first season, you'd be excited, would you not?

Would you still be that excited if that now 22-year old, averaged .57 points-per-game over his 196 NHL career games? What if he averaged .64 points-per-game as a 19-year old in that Calder-winning rookie campaign we just spoke of (which was a lockout shortened 48-game season)?

Before answering that question, take into account that this same lottery pick played 69 games his sophomore NHL season, but contributed only 28 points, for a .40 point-per-game average. But don't jump the gun on your decision just yet. Consider this: what if that same player (who went from a .64 to .40 point-per-game pace), clipped along at a .55 point-per-game pace over 48 games last season but than averaged 1.05 points-per-game after the arrival of new linemate Jaromir Jagr?

There you have the enigma of Jonathan Huberdeau. It's not his fault that his rookie campaign was shortened due to lockout. It's not his fault that he played on a terrible team and through nagging injuries to his hip in his second season. And it's not his fault that he only got to play 21-games down the stretch with the super-human Jagr. While we have very little information about the contract negotiations that led to his new two-year deal, it can't have been easy to assess his true value..... yet.

He has had one fantastic season that was really only half a season, one poor season that is easily explained by a nagging hip injury suffered during his rookie campaign, and one good season that finished great. His up and down production has also tracked variations in linemates as well as new coaching staffs and game plans. Yet, his talent has never been questioned, that much is certain. Coming into the 2011 draft, Future Considerations said this about the young French-Canadian:

Second only to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Future Considerations’ final rankingfor the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Huberdeau put together an exceptional year that saw him outside of the first round in September. Forty-three goals and 105 regular season points later, Huberdeau skyrocketed into the top-five.

That is some very high praise from a respected prospect ratings organization. Looking back at that 2011 draft can provide some very valuable insight as to what young Mr. Huberdeau is, and give us some idea of how he has done. Coming into that draft, Huberdeau was considered neck-and-neck as a prospect with future Philadelphia Flyer Sean Couturier (who ended up being picked 8th overall). So lets take a look at the forwards taken in the top-8 of that draft and their points-per-game average over their short NHL careers:

Name Games Played Points Points-per-game average
Ryan Nugent Hopkins 258 188 .72
Gabriel Landeskog 281 193 .68
Jonathan Huberdeau 196 113 .57
Ryan Strome 118 68 .57
Mika Zibanejad 200 100 .50
Mark Scheifele 156 84 .53
Sean Couturier 287 118 .41

The point-per-game pace chart above would certainly suggest that Huberdeau is right within the production range that surrounds his draft position (and it should be noted that the 2011 draft has not yet produced a great deal of top-end offensive talent outside the top 8 forward picks-Brandon Saad being a notable exception from the second round).

What exactly was Huberdeau expected to be, though? Hockey's Future had this to say about Huberdeau's style of play as he entered the professional ranks:

An offensive wizard when the puck is on his stick, Huberdeau is blessed with great hands and the creativity to make things happen on the ice. Equally adept at finding an open player and making a pass as he is with sliding through defensive coverage or scoring a goal himself, Huberdeau is a dynamic talent with an excellent work ethic. Huberdeau continues to work hard in the weight room to add muscle and strength which will help him to win tough battles on the ice.

Were the prognosticators right about him? At the conclusion of his first NHL season, Hockey's Future had this to add about the young winger:

The Calder Trophy that Huberdeau won last season is a testament to what the future holds. He was Florida’s best forward last year as a rookie, and he should quickly rise up the charts of NHL forwards as he makes his way to several All-Star appearances and a spot among the league’s best.

Without question, at the conclusion of that Calder-winning season, it appeared that the prospect services had been correct about him. Coming into his second NHL season, Hockey's Future predicted big things for Huberdeau:

Jonathan Huberdeau is undoubtedly one of the best young players in hockey right now and he has the hardware to prove it. Despite playing through a hip injury which required offseason surgery, Huberdeau ended his debut NHL season as the Panthers top forward, with a rookie scoring title and Calder Trophy in hand.

Although he lacks high-end speed, Huberdeau is an agile and quick skater with good acceleration. He reads plays well, and has tremendous offensive instincts and the hands and vision to find opportunities that most players would miss or be unable to finish. He can snap off a quick one-timer while on the move and has a highly accurate shot, but he is most dangerous with the puck on his stick and a split second to make a play.

He is expected to continue to grow in his second NHL season and has the potential to be a star forward in the near future.

Hindsight is 20/20, and we know that the 2013-14 season did not go as the sophomore winger would have wished. Of course, that Panther team was also nothing short of awful, and Hubs is a player that excels at playing a team game (unassisted goal in the pre-season game against Dallas notwithstanding of course!). But looking back at 2014-15, Hubs had a solid season that turned, in the final 21 games, into a great one. Shane O'Donnell looked at the (then) 21-year old's metrics for last season this past summer:

Statistical Breakdown

Player SAT% RelSAT% SCF% RelSCF% dCorsi P/60
Jonathan Huberdeau 52.2% 1.5% 53.1% 2.0% 0.73 2.26

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.

His main asset is his playmaking and passing. Thankfully, our own Mr. O'Donnell participated in a passing metrics study last season and recorded Huberdeau's passing productivity. Here is a portion of that article:

Primary passes show us who directly contributes to shot attempts, and from where they do it. Players with high transition totals move the puck up on the rush (slightly higher shooting percentage), while high offensive zone totals mean that a lot of that player's offense comes from work along the boards. Elevated scoring chance totals are a result of quality passes into the slot, as these opportunities are more likely to result in a goal.

The Good - Jagr, Jokinen, and Huberdeau are the team's three best passers, with Boyes, Bjugstad, Smith, and Trocheck right behind them. Jokinen, Trocheck, Boyes and Huberdeau both create a lot of transition chances

In the comments section of the article regarding Huberdeau's contract status (which can be found here), JD Morris made the excellent point that a .57 point-per-game average is nothing to be disappointed about. This should only get better, as Jagr has been re-signed and Barkov looked much better playing with his two linemates down the stretch as well. Every indication is that these two players compliment Huberdeau perfectly and will allow him to emerge as the full-fledged star he was predicted to be. This should be the year we see Huberdeau slide into the league leaders in several offensive categories.

Where We Voted for Huberdeau:

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
3 3 4 3 4

Who We Voted 4th

Shane Todd JC Kevin Donny
Nick Bjugstad Sasha Barkov

Jonathan Huberdeau

Brandon Pirri Jonathan Huberdeau