Florida Panthers: Looking at Jonathan Huberdeau’s impact

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 6: Jonathan Huberdeau
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 6: Jonathan Huberdeau /

Coming off a shortened 2016-17 season, Jonathan Huberdeau was looking to have a strong 2017-18 campaign. Has he lived up to his high expectations?

When Huberdeau suffered that terrible injury right before the Florida Panthers began their 2016-17 season, it was obvious that the Panthers were really missing him in their lineup. Through most of the season they struggled to keep up with the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference, and it became clear that if the Cats were going to succeed, they needed to have Jonathan Huberdeau in their lineup every time they took the ice.

In the 2015-16 season when the Panthers shocked the entire sports world and won the Atlantic Division, Huberdeau played a huge part in their ascent to the top of the division. His connection with line-mates, Barkov and Jagr was electric, as he tallied 20 goals to go along with his 39 assists. Although the playoffs didn’t work out the way anybody wanted or expected it to, the Panthers knew that they had a superstar on their hands.

Fast forward to the 2016-17 season. The Panthers are struggling to stay afloat in the playoff chase. While they are still floating and have life, their playoff hopes and dreams continue to sink game by game. All of a sudden, the Panthers announce that Huberdeau has made a quick return from injury, returning to the lineup for the first time.

Immediately, Johnny makes an impact. Not only does he score a goal in his first game back, but he leads the team on a 6-1-0 run over seven games and puts the Panthers back into a playoff spot.

While the Panthers didn’t end up making the playoffs, Huberdeau was the key ingredient that jump-started the Panthers when he returned. He ended up finishing the season with 10 goals and 16 assists in just 31 games played.

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Entering this season, the Panthers expected big things from Huberdeau. Not only would this be his 6th season in the NHL, but his game was consistently improving every year. During his career thus far, his career high in points had been 59, which dates back to the 2015-16 season.

Many expected him to hover around that point mark once again, possibly increasing his point tally to the 60-65 point target. Luckily for the Panthers’ organization and fans, Huberdeau decided to shatter those expectations, putting together an incredible season.

Through 52 games this year, Huberdeau is operating just shy of a point per game season, recording 18G, 33A, and 51 points. While he probably will fall short of the 82 point mark, it’s very likely that he could finish in the 70 point range. As of now, he currently leads the Cats in points while the Panthers other stars, Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov, trail him by just a few points.

Together with Trocheck and Barkov, Huberdeau is carrying the Panthers’ season along. All year-long, the trio has kept the team afloat in the playoff chase, giving Florida a chance to make the postseason with 31 games remaining. If the Cats hope to make a playoff run, then they will once again have to rely on Huberdeau’s production, as well as his other two co-stars (Barkov and Trocheck) to carry them to a playoff berth.

Next: Who deserves credit for the Cats’ surge?

The impact that Jonathan Huberdeau has had with the Panthers has solidified himself as a leader on this team and a superstar in the NHL. The Cats are very lucky to have Huberdeau’s presence nightly, and should continue to seek options and ways to improving the roster moving forward.