The Florida Panthers’ 2013 season was rife with disappointment. There were underwhelming performances, there was terrible injury luck but there was also Jonathan Huberdeau. The Florida Panthers’ 2011 top draft pick had an outstanding rookie season and was one of the few bright spots on a generally woeful Panthers team.
Huberdeau finished the year with 14 goals and 17 assists in 48 games played. With 31 points, Huberdeau tied Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov for the rookie scoring title. Amongst rookies, Huberdeau ranked third in goals, assists, and shots while averaging 16:55 minutes per game for a team with little in the way of offensive firepower. His accomplishments did not go unrecognized as he was named one of the three finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy awarded to the league’s rookie of the year.
In celebration of Jonathan Huberdeau’s excellent rookie campaign, here is a look at his top five moments from the 2013 season:
1) 1/19/13 Three point performance in career debut
Expectations were high for Jonathan Huberdeau going into his rookie year but after his performance in the Panthers’ 5-1 season opening drubbing of the Carolina Hurricanes, it was clear that the expectations were not high enough. It only took Huberdeau three minutes and thirty seven seconds to get that first NHL goal out of his way tipping home a pass from Peter Mueller, and scoring on his first NHL shot. Huberdeau however was not finished as he went on to tally two assists to punctuate a stellar debut.
2) 2/7/13 Huberdeau Burns Bryzgalov
On this night, the Flyers and Panthers were tied at two following the overtime which meant, Jonathan Huberdeau would get his first chance to display his dazzling skills, and boy did he dazzle. My favorite part about the video below is when Hubs skates down to take his chance against Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers’ announcer offers up this tasty bit of analysis, “He has a lot of skill.” Right on cue, Huberdeau proceeds to embarrass Bryzgalov with a brilliantly smooth move.
I like to imagine Bryzgalov’s thought process following the move went something like this, “You got me this time rookie but only because I didn’t see you coming. Try anything like that again and you’ll be sorry!” I like to think thats how things went because just two weeks later the two found themselves in a similar situation, and that brings us to moment three..
3) 2/21/13 Four points, including a nasty penalty shot goal against the Flyers
This was Jonathan Huberdeau’s star game. What I mean by that is, this was the type of performance that is expected of the league’s top tier players. If you are going to be a star in the NHL, you need to have games where nobody else on the ice can touch you, games where you singlehandedly power your team to a win. Coming into this game, the Panthers had lost their last five games and were desperate for two points. Like the ace of a pitching staff, Huberdeau answered the call and delivered two goals and two assists in a 5-2 Panthers’ win. The big moment in this game came when Huberdeau was awarded a first period penalty shot. Having already beaten Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in a shootout with some fancy stick work, (see above) Huberdeau came down the ice…actually, just watch the clip, words don’t do it justice. Suffice to say, I look back on this game against Philly as the game that convinced me that Huberdeau will become a star.
4) 3/5/13 Huberdeau converts penalty shot against the Jets
There are a couple things to note here, first, I do not want this list to get two penalty shot/shootout heavy but thats just the nature of the beast. By converting this penalty shot goal against Ondrej Pavelec, Huberdeau became only the second rookie to score two penalty shot goals in his rookie season. Second, just watch Hubb’s attempt closely. By this time in the season, the word had most definitely gotten out that Huberdeau has some mind-boggling dekes. As Huberdeau approaches Pavelec, you can bet your money that Pavelec is waiting for a deke. He keeps waiting and waiting and waiting and when everyone in the building is expecting the deke to come, Huberdeau releases a lightning quick wrister top corner easily beating Pavelec glove side. Finally, the play leading up to the penalty shot was something special. Huberdeau, who is not the best skater, creates two excellent with hard work and tenacity two attributes you love to see from a player with so much pure skill.
5) 4/18/13 Huberdeau beats Lundqvist
The Panthers’ 6-1 loss to the Rangers on April 18th was a microcosm of their season. With everything seemingly going wrong, Jonathan Huberdeau was the lone positive. But oh what a positive he was! There is not much to be said about this magnificent deke and finish so I will leave you with the words of Q-Tip, “Not no Parkay, not no margarine, Strickly butter baby, strictly butter”.