The Florida Panthers hiring of Gerard Gallant as head coach is cause for a reunion with young star Jonathan Huberdeau.
Gallant coached Huberdeau with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and the two won a pair of Memorial Cup titles together. As you might expect, the 21-year-old forward is happy to be back with his old coach as George Richards of the Miami Herald shared.
“I’m excited for this,” Huberdeau said. “He’s a guy who is intense and into the game. He keeps you up throughout the game. I think the guys are going to react to him. He wants what is best for the players.”
In three seasons at Saint John under Gallant (165 games), Huberdeau had 88 goals and 212 points in the regular season and another 69 points (37 goals) in 55 playoff games. Those kinds of numbers are hard to ignore and the Panthers will hope the new coach can rekindle the young forward’s offensive game.
Huberdeau struggled this season with just nine goals and 28 points in 69 games. The Panthers will need a lot more than that out of the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft if they’re going to climb in the Eastern Conference.
While we’re going to see guys like first round pick Mark Scheifele and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get their shot to breakout with their respective teams this year, one guy we won’t be seeing in the NHL until at least next season is Jonathan Huberdeau.
The Panthers have decided to not get Huberdeau signed to his entry-level deal and give him the nine game preview treatment and will instead send him back to junior hockey with Saint John in the QMJHL.
Huberdeau’s selection in June at the draft coupled with Tallon’s big spending ways generated a ton of buzz for the Panthers this summer, but without Huberdeau it’s a bit of a buzzkill. That said, Huberdeau’s development comes first and if he’s not ready for primetime it’s best to send him back to juniors.
All youth is not lost in Florida, however, as last year’s first round pick, Erik Gudbranson, will start the year with the Panthers along the blue line. Gudbranson looked solid in camp last year but he and the Panthers couldn’t agree on a contract before the start of the season and he went back to juniors. Now Gudbranson is signed up and locked in and will be in the lineup on opening night. Given what the Panthers have going with their forwards and defensemen respectively, keeping a big defenseman around is a more pressing need than another forward.
The Saint John Sea Dogs became the first ever Memorial Cup winner from Canada’s Maritimes region thanks to their 3-1 win against the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
It was a redemptive performance for Sea Dogs goalie Jacob DeSerres, who gave up nine goals in last year’s Memorial Cup final against the Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler-fueled Windsor Spitfires as a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings. This time around he only yielded a goal against Riley Brace, making 34 saves tonight.
The Memorial Cup is often an opportunity for future NHL prospects to improve their draft outlook at least a little bit or make the teams who already drafted them drool that much more. The Goalie Guild points out that while the Philadelphia Flyers drafted DeSerres, they did not end up signing him so he is an unrestricted free agent.
Speaking of players improving their stock, Damien Cox wrote that Sea Dogs forward Jonathan Huberdeau was making his way into the conversation to be the top pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft with prospects such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Adam Larsson going into this game. Huberdeau didn’t disappoint in tonight’s final game, scoring a 3-1 insurance goal thanks to a pass by Zack Phillips. NHL.com points out that Huberdeau is ranked third and Phillips (who also scored a goal) is the 15th-ranked prospect among North American skaters according to the league’s Central Scouting.
Defenseman Simon Despres was Saint John’s other goal scorer. He was the 30th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This 2011 Memorial Cup win was also a redemptive experience for former Columbus Blue Jackets and current Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant. Meanwhile, it’s another bitter big-game defeat for Mississauga coach Dave Cameron, who coached the Canadian World Junior team that lost to those crazy drunken Russians and lost the OHL championship to the Owen Sound to boot.