The Florida Panthers had to wait one extra day to see their top pick from the 2011 draft hit the ice. Jonathan Huberdeau was held out of the team's first practice of an abbreviated training camp Monday, a precaution after he reported some aches and pains following the recent World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Russia.
But Huberdeau, the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, is expected to make the Panthers' roster this season, with the team hoping he can boost the team's scoring. "We’re enthused to have him come in here," Coach Kevin Dineen told The Miami Heraldthis week.
That could be a lot to ask of a 19-year-old prospect, but after finishing 25th out of 30 NHL teams in scoring last season, the Panthers need some additional firepower if they want to defend their Southeast Division title. Still, he is up to the challenge.
"I don't want to go back to junior [hockey]," Huberdeau told the Herald. "This is an important week. We have a lot of great veteran players who are going to help me get through it."
Dineen said he plans to use Huberdeau at left wing, possibly alongside centers Stephen Weiss or Marcel Goc. "I will put him in situations where he has opportunity to use his skills and have success in whatever that role may be," he told the Herald.
Huberdeau appeared in Panthers camp before the 2011-12 season, leading the team with 3 goals and 1 assist in five preseason games before the team sent him to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec junior league (QMJHL) for more seasoning.
Huberdeau went on to score 30 goals with 42 assists in just 37 games, a season after scoring 43 goals and 62 assists over 67 games.
"Last year went pretty well for me," he told the Herald. "I'm going to work even harder and do anything I can to make this team."
He's got the support of his teammates, at the very least. "I think he's a really good player, a guy who is going to be a star in this league,” right wing Tomas Kopecky said. "He has all the skills."
The Panthers open the shortened 2013 season Saturday night at home against the Carolina Panthers.