Author: Joe Yerdon

Jonathan Huberdeau

Under Pressure: Jonathan Huberdeau

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Florida Panthers we pick… Jonathan Huberdeau.

Being the brightest young star on a team desperate for consistent success can be hard. Such is the case for 20-year-old Huberdeau in Florida. Last season he took home the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie but for the Panthers he represents something else: Hope.

The Panthers were crushed by injuries and misfortune last season. Jose Theodore’s injury forced prospect Jacob Markstrom into the fire as the team’s starting goalie. Guys like Kris Versteeg, Ed Jovanovski, Stephen Weiss, Sean Bergenheim, and Scottie Upshall all missed significant time with injuries.

Huberdeau and Tomas Fleischmann were the two regulars in their top six who managed to stay healthy all season and they led the way in points. For a kid as young as he is, Huberdeau handled it all with aplomb. After a summer and preseason filled with changes, it’s up to him to just not be a complementary player, but a leader.

After putting up 31 points last season in 48 games, Huberdeau will have those injured guys back to surround him and with that his production will pick up. Now that Weiss moved on to Detroit, he’s now the top guy on the top line which means we should get more opportunities to see goals like this:

Huberdeau will need to have a John Tavares-like evolution of his play and become the superstar the Panthers haven’t had since Pavel Bure played there. Without that kind of improvement, Florida won’t be able to take that next step.

He should have more help this season, but it’s up to him to make the Panthers a playoff contender in the Atlantic Division.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Detroit’s DeKeyser (knee) says he’ll be ready for season opener

Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings

Danny DeKeyser would like to start the season off right with the Detroit Red Wings, his banged up knee just has to allow him to do it.

Detroit’s rookie blue liner tells Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press the knee he hurt Wednesday night will have him sitting out the final two preseason games this weekend and hopes opening night won’t be in doubt.

“It’s just precautionary,” DeKeyser . “It’s a little sore, so I want to make sure it’s 100% before I go out there again.”

DeKeyser arrived on the scene last season after departing Western Michigan University and had instant success with Detroit before getting hurt. The news does get better for the Red Wings as Jakub Kindl (hip flexor) returns to the lineup for tonight’s game against Toronto.

Going into the season healthy would make for a pleasant change for the Wings after the issues they ran into last season.

Wild release Steckel from PTO

David Steckel

Yet another veteran hits the free agent pool and this time it’s a faceoff-winning centerman.

David Steckel was released from his professional tryout agreement by the Minnesota Wild. The 31-year-old former Maple Leaf, Capital, Devil, and Duck appeared in two preseason games with the Wild.

His competition in Wild camp to land a job as the fourth line center proved to be stiff. With pivot jobs already spoken for by Mikko Koivu, Kyle Brodziak, and Zenon Konopka holding down jobs with the latter two on the third and fourth lines already. It was an uphill climb from the get-go for Steckel.

As for where he’s headed next, Michael Russo of The Star Tribune says it’s likely he signs a deal with the Wild’s AHL team in Iowa.

Report: Theodore signs one-year deal in KHL

Jose Theodore

It turns out Jose Theodore may not have had as much NHL interest as he was hoping.

Igor Eronko of in Russia reports Theodore has signed a one-year deal with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.

There was a report just a couple days ago he had an offer from them, but those were shot down and countered with another report saying he had interest from as many as three NHL teams.

After having his season ended early with the Panthers last season, Theodore was hoping to bounce back as a backup somewhere this season. Ideally he wanted to stay with Florida but that didn’t happen.

Heading to the KHL to continue his career isn’t a bad move for the 2002 Hart Trophy winner at this point just so long as those NHL teams he was reportedly talking with weren’t that interested.

Flames’ Hartley says he hasn’t settled on a No. 1 goalie

Bob Hartley
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Calgary Flames coach Bob Hartley will have a lot of decisions to make this year. One of them centers around how to best replace recently retired Miikka Kiprusoff in goal.

As of now, he hasn’t made any decisions about anything.

“We’re not set yet on our 23 (man roster). We are not set on our No. 1 goalie or our No. 2 goalie,” he told reporters.

“We want to make sure that we watch those guys. We watch those guys in meetings. We watch them on the ice. We watch them in the gym. We do video with them and then we go back on the ice the next day with a certain drill that will tell us if they get it or not.”

His choices in goal aren’t exactly going to wow anyone.

Journeyman Joey MacDonald, recent KHL exile Karri Ramo, and young Swiss goalie Reto Berra are still in the hunt for the top job. Ramo and Berra have gotten the bulk of the starts in the preseason which could point at who will back MacDonald up or it just tells us the Flames want to know what they’ve got in them.

While other teams have a defined No. 1 goalie or are set to split things up, any one of those three could wind up being the top guy in Calgary. Unless someone seizes the job and comes out of nowhere, it could (will?) be a long year for the Flames.