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.