“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.