Content related to the NHL All-Star Game on the 2019 internet often boils down to how awful the game is, how disrespectful it is that someone is skipping the game for ‘injury’ and of course, the long list of snubs.
The NHL’s list of snubs is often longer than in any other sports thanks to the strange process the NHL uses to pick the teams, but this year’s snub list is missing someone who is the most deserving Florida Panther this season to head to San Jose: Jonathan Huberdeau.
Keith Yandle’s selection might at first seem odd, but his offensive output this season and overall play merits consideration, and with how the NHL wants a representative of every team at the game plus the logjam of good Atlantic Division forwards occupying, Yandle’s inclusion makes sense.
Aleksander Barkov should be there based on his dominant play, but he’s not moving the needle the way Kucherov, Tavares, Matthews, Stamkos et al. do if that even still matters for this event. But neither of those two ‘deserve’ to be in San Jose more than Jonathan Huberdeau does.
He has 45 points through 39 games, meaning if he keeps this up, he’ll not only blast away his previous career high of 69 points, but he’ll broach 90, meaning he could challenge Pavel Bure for the highest scoring season in team history.
He already has 35 assists, and with 19 more, he’d pass Viktor Kozlov for the most assists in a season in team history.
With 8 more, he’d best his career high of 42 assists. He’s second on the team in Rel CF% at 2.96, according to Corsica Hockey, third in primary points/60 all while starting more than 50% of shifts in the defensive zone.
To be fair, a lot of that comes with playing on the Panthers power play, the only reason their season is still afloat and now playing on a line with his best friend Sasha Barkov, but he has earned these assignments based on how he has steadily improved not just this season but has been one of the few to do that under Bob Boughner.
Huberdeau is quite possibly the league’s most underrated playmaker, and he’s now being put in a position to succeed by being the team’s primary playmaker on its top line and humming power play.
He sits at ninth in the league in assists, and only one Panther since Kozlov’s 99-2000 season has come close to being in the top 10 in that category, Brian Campbell in 2011-12 with 49.
Tailoring certain elements of play to Huberdeau’s greatest strength has allowed him to do what he’s best at without being asked to do too much.
He’s playing with a sense of freedom in his game that even at his best in recent seasons, he hasn’t been able to do.
And he’s getting almost no credit for it. Most people have called Aleksander Barkov the league’s most underrated forward for some time, but he’s finally getting some of the credit he deserves for being one of the best two-way centers in the sport.
Huberdeau is getting almost no credit for being one of the league’s premier playmakers, which at 25 it’s safe to say he has now officially become.
On almost no team in the NHL would the team’s leading scorer be getting no All-Star game love, even in passing, but that’s sadly the case with Huberdeau.
Perhaps that’s just due to the ridiculous depth of forwards in the Atlantic Division; he’s not even on the second team of seven forwards that the division could send to San Jose. But that shouldn’t exclude him from getting the love he deserves for having the best season of his career.
If the Panthers are going to make any run to the postseason, the rest of the top players will get with 10 days off is certainly going to help that cause, especially for Huberdeau.
However, in an ideal world, he’d be the Panthers’ representative in San Jose. He’s done more than enough to deserve the call.