As they approach their 20th season in the NHL, the Florida Panthers were treated to a franchise-first achievement on Saturday night as rookie sensation Jonathan Huberdeau was announced as this season’s Calder Trophy winner – the first time a Florida Panther has received this honor. Although their 2012-2013 season was marred by injuries and uninspired play, the Panthers found solace in the exceptional and exciting exploits of Huberdeau.
In 48 games this season, 19-year-old Huberdeau finished tied for the rookie scoring title with an impressive 31 points (14G 17A). In addition to his stellar point total, Huberdeau also placed first among rookie forwards averaging 16:55 TOI/per game and ranked third among rookies with 112 total shots on goal. After looking like he may have fallen out of Calder Trophy contention, Huberdeau broke out of a 4-game scoring slump to finish strong in the Panthers’ season finale – recording 3 assists in a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On a team that has been devoid of any real “wow moments” since the departure of Pavel Bure during the 2001-2002 season, Huberdeau was able to bring excitement and flash back to South Florida hockey. Whether it was his exceptional stick handling or head-turning dekes, Huberdeau was constantly giving hockey fans a reason to tune in to see what he would do next.
In taking home the Calder Trophy, Huberdeau rose above fellow rookie standouts Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Saad of the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks respectively. Gallagher finished 3rd overall in rookie scoring with 28 points (15G 13A) and was an integral part in the Montreal Canadiens making the playoffs this season. Meanwhile, Saad earned 27 points (10G 17A) and led all rookie skaters in +/- with an outstanding +17 rating.
While all three candidates were clearly deserving of being this year’s top rookie, it was Huberdeau who was faced with the most formidable adversary every time he stepped out onto the ice – his own team. While both Gallagher and Saad where implemented into proven systems with veterans and superstars, Huberdeau was cast into the fire early and expected to be the star of a rebuilding Panthers’ franchise. Given the amount of injuries and underachievers that the Panthers had to deal with this season, Head Coach Kevin Dineen was forced to constantly shuffle his lines, thus keeping Huberdeau from achieving any sense of normalcy on the roster.
Considering how well Huberdeau played under the weight of a last place team and the atmosphere that comes with it, it is hard to say that any rookie overcame more this season. While both Saad and Gallagher are important pieces on established playoff teams, Huberdeau could be the first building block towards a prosperous future for the Panthers. For now though, let us congratulate all three nominees and toast to the next generation of NHL stars.
Huberdeau’s Rookie Notes
- Finished 2nd on the Panthers in scoring with 31 total points.
- Had the 4th most assists among rookies with 17.
- Had the 3rd most goals among rookies with 14.
- Had 3 games of at least 3 or more points.
- Scored 4 points (2G 2A) against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 21st.
- Was 2 for 2 on penalty shots this season.
- Was 2 for 4 in shootouts this season.
- Longest point streak was 3 games (achieved on 3 separate occasions).
- Longest goal drought was 9 games.
- Penalty shot goal against Ondrej Pavelec on 3/5/13
- Penalty shot goal against Ilya Bryzgalov on 2/21/13
- Peter Mueller sets up Jonathan Huberdeau for this great goal against the Carolina Hurricanes on 3/3/13
- Jonathan Huberdeau goes top shelf on Henrik Lundqvist on 5/18/13
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