To say that Jonathan Huberdeau had a ‘disappointing’ sophomore season in the NHL could easily be the understatement of the year for the Florida Panthers.
The 2011 third overall pick won the Calder Trophy last year as the league’s top rookie, scoring a very respectable 31-points in the 48-game lockout shortened season. In his first full season (69-games) Huberdeau failed to reach that mark, falling short by three points (28).
We saw during the Olympics that the depth that Canada has to play with is mind boggling. Last year’s scoring champion (Martin St. Louis) was left off the original roster, being added later as an injury replacement.
One of the best goal scoring wingers of the last few seasons (James Neal) was left off all together. You can make an argument that among the players left off you can assemble a team that could compete for a medal.
So despite the majority of the better Canadian players are still playing in the playoffs, it has to come to somewhat of a surprise that a player with 28-points on the season was elected to play for Canada at the upcoming World Hockey Championships in Belarus.
For Huberdeau, this is the perfect opportunity to put a positive note on the end of an otherwise frustrating season. General Manager of the Panthers Dale Tallon even stated in his end of season press conference that one of the biggest factors in Huberdeau’s struggles was a lack of confidence.
Easily understandable for a player his age, in his first full season, who battled injuries, and even when he was couldn’t quite to get the puck to bounce his way.
What better way to boost your confidence than an opportunity to play for your country? Huberdeau is no stranger to international tournaments, playing in four in his young career – all on the junior circuit. In 2010 he played in the World U-17 Hockey Challenge and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.
He also participated in the 2012 and 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships, scoring nine points in both tournaments.
Some would turn down an offer to keep playing hockey after a poor season, but give it to Huberdeau to want to play out of his slump – which in all honesty is probably the only way to set him up for a big third season.
With the Panthers expected to be busy this offseason, Huberdeau could use a strong outing to remind the organization of just what he can bring. Not like they really forgot though.
The World Championships begin on May 9, with Canada facing France in their first game. Stay tuned to The Rat Trick for continued coverage on all of the Panthers participating.