At 26 years of age, forward Jonathan Huberdeau has surpassed Olli Jokinen for most points in Florida Panthers history (420).
It was inevitable, folks. It was simply just a matter of time until Jonathan Huberdeau broke the record. We all knew it was going to happen one day, and that one day has finally arrived.
The Florida Panthers selected the Quebec native third overall back in 2011. Almost nine drafts later and they look back on that selection with great pride and joy. Huberdeau has not only been a good pick, but he’s been a great pick – becoming a franchise figure and leader. I was 13-years-old when the Panthers made that selection, and from the very start, I told everyone that was in close proximity of me that he was not only going to be one of the faces of the Panthers franchise but that he was going to one day become an everyday face of the league. It took a little bit of time, but here he finally is.
Everything that they hoped he would become when originally making the selection has come to life over the past few seasons. Huberdeau made his mark during the shortened 2012-13 season by taking home the Calder Trophy. From there, it looked as if Huberdeau would have a smooth ride out, which unfortunately wasn’t the case.
He experienced the “sophomore slump,” which has hit many second-year players in their careers. It set Huberdeau back a bit by denting his confidence as he struggled to close out the year bouncing from the first line all the way down to the fourth on some occasions. The experience must’ve been tough for the young Huby to handle, but in hindsight, the adversity that he faced was a learning experience that he will forever look back upon as the turning point in his career.
Once veteran Jaromir Jagr was brought in to mentor him and linemate Aleksander Barkov, Huberdeau’s career began to take off in every possible aspect. Jagr’s influence cannot be overlooked in this situation as he took the two of them under his wing and showed them both the way. For Huberdeau, this meant becoming a better hockey player both on and off the ice, seeing his point total rise to 54 in his third year. His progression continued the following season, recording 59 points in 76 games, helping Florida reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12.
That stint brought Huberdeau back on the right path, but it didn’t last forever. Eventually, the training wheels came off and Huberdeau – as well as his partner in crime, Barkov – were forced to become the leaders of the franchise after Jagr and other notable vets departured. For Huberdeau, this change in scenery didn’t affect him by the slightest as he took the opportunity by the horn and ran away with it by putting up 69 points in the first post-Jagr season. The following year (2018-19), Huby shattered his career highs by recording 92 points in what would be his first point-per-game campaign. This season, he has 61 points over 45 games, expected to break his tally from last year.
Ultimately, it’s been quite the ride for Huberdeau in his first eight NHL seasons, experiencing both the highs and lows within the organization. He’s spent his entire career so far in one spot, which he hopes to continue over his stay in South Florida. GM Dale Tallon has never been shy to rave about his core players, always centering the discussions around the likes of Barkov and Huberdeau.
Fast-forward to just yesterday (January 12th) against the Toronto Maple Leafs, where the Florida Panthers defeated their divisional opponents by a commanding score of 8-4, seeing Huberdeau overtake Olli Jokinen for most points in franchise history (420). See how time flies? It just seems like it was yesterday that Huby was throwing on the Cats sweater as a teenager freshly entering the league. Now, he’s a strong, bearded 26-year-old, hungry to lift the cup over his head with the only team he’s ever known.
Simply put, we (as fans) are witnessing greatness that we should otherwise cherry forever. It’s been a while since the Panthers had a winger of Huberdeau’s caliber, and now that they have him on a team-friendly deal with some term remaining, the goal to become a Stanley Cup contender becomes urgent after each and every passing day.
Jonathan Huberdeau is no longer a kid, he’s now a superstar ready to win and take his team to the next level. It’s time for the Florida Panthers organization to do everything possible to try and maximize his window that they have him under control for. Huby has always expressed his commitment and willingness to not only play for this team but to remain here for the rest of his career. The days of missing out and falling short are finally over after all the changes that were made in the offseason. It’s time to win with this core, including Huberdeau as one of the front leaders – no matter what it possibly takes.
Setting the record for most points in franchise history is just one of many achievements for Huberdeau in his young career. There are many more from where that came from, which Huby will undoubtedly obtain over the course of his career.