*This article was published before the 2022-23 season
Heading into the 2021-22 season, expectations were as high as ever for Jonathan Huberdeau and the Florida Panthers, who, on paper, had one of the most talented rosters in the entire NHL. They absolutely lived up to those expectations throughout the regular season, as their 58-18-6 record secured them the Presidents’ Trophy. Meanwhile, Huberdeau’s 115 points were not only a career-high but good enough for second alongside Johnny Gaudreau, trailing only Connor McDavid, who led with 123.
But for as good as the regular season was for Huberdeau and the Panthers, the playoffs were a different story. While they were able to knock off the Washington Capitals in the first round, it didn’t come nearly as easily as most had expected. Their questionable play not only continued into the second round but worsened as they were swept in embarrassing fashion by the Tampa Bay Lightning. While nobody on the roster played exceptionally well, Huberdeau, in particular, really struggled with just a goal and five points through his team’s 10 playoff outings.
As it turns out, those struggles were enough to have management consider some major changes, and they more than followed through on them. General manager Bill Zito shocked the hockey world less than a month ago when he chose to move Huberdeau, alongside Mackenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional first-round pick to the Calgary Flames in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk.
While the Panthers are certainly getting a great player, Flames fans were ecstatic about this deal, in large part due to obtaining Huberdeau. For those fans, this article will help you to get to know more about the elite 29-year-old forward.
Memorial Cup Champion
Though Huberdeau has yet to hoist a Stanley Cup, he does have winning experience that comes from his junior hockey career. He spent his four seasons of junior hockey playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and had plenty of success while doing so.
Latest News & Highlights
The Sea Dogs were a powerhouse during Huberdeau’s three seasons with the team, including a 2010-11 season that saw them put up a ridiculous 58-7-3 record. Huberdeau’s 105 points led his team in scoring that year, as did his 30 points in just 19 playoff outings. Thanks in large part to his great play in the postseason, the Sea Dogs won the QMJHL title and were able to play in the Memorial Cup, which took place in Mississauga, Ontario.
Huberdeau’s outstanding play continued at the Memorial Cup, as he recorded three goals and six points in just four outings, which was enough to have him named the tournament’s MVP. It had served as the franchise’s only Memorial Cup victory until this past June, when they were able to win their second, this one coming on home ice.
Sea Dogs First Hall of Famer
As mentioned, Huberdeau had an outstanding career as a Sea Dog, proven by the fact he was selected third overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft behind only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog. His 257 points that came in just 195 outings rank first in franchise history, while his goal total of 104 and assist total of 153 both rank second.
To no surprise, Huberdeau was inducted into the Sea Dogs’ Hall of Fame, but what made it extra special was that he was the first ever inductee. When inducted at the age of 24, he described it as a big honour while being sure to mention how crucial his teammates at the time were to his success. Mike Thomas, who played with the organization from 2006-2011, has since joined him.
Calder Trophy Winner
While it took quite some time for Huberdeau to get the recognition he deserved in the NHL, he has always been a very high-quality player. He proved that in his rookie year back in the shortened 2012-13 campaign, one in which he recorded 14 goals and 31 points in just 48 outings.
Those totals, which over a full 82-game schedule translate to 24 goals and 53 points, were good enough to earn him the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Though his numbers dipped in the following season, he was able to get right back on track in 2014-15 and has since slowly morphed into the superstar player he is today.
Left as the Panthers’ All-Time Leading Scorer
Since being founded back in 1993, the Panthers have had a number of highly skilled players come and go, though for plenty of time, the best in franchise history was said to be Olli Jokinen. That has since changed in recent years, however, as both Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov paired up to be two of the league’s most dominant players and are undoubtedly the best two Panthers of all time.
To little surprise, Huberdeau’s 613 points in a Panthers uniform ranked first in franchise history, a feat he accomplished in 671 games. He was able to earn the top spot back on Jan. 8, 2020, when he recorded a point in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs to give himself 420 in a Panthers jersey, surpassing Jokinen’s 419. Since then, Barkov has passed Huberdeau, but nonetheless, it shows just how productive Huberdeau was during his time in Florida.
Single Season Assist Record
As previously mentioned, the 2021-22 regular season was an incredible one for Huberdeau. Not only was he able to surpass the 100-point barrier for the first time in his career, but he was undoubtedly the best player on what was the league’s best team. Many were quite surprised to see him fail to get nominated for the Hart Trophy, but nonetheless, he was absolutely spectacular.
Proving just how great he was is the fact that in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 31, he was able to record his 71st assist of the season. The reason that number is so significant is that heading into the year, Joe Juneau’s 70 assists during the 1992-93 season were the most by a left winger in NHL history. Huberdeau not only topped that record but did so with relative ease as he finished the 2021-22 campaign with 85.
Biggest Contract in Flames History
While the trade that saw Huberdeau and Weegar head to the Flames in exchange for Tkachuk was viewed as a win, it was very clear to everybody that may have changed if neither re-signed in Calgary. As it turns out, both had just one season remaining on their deals at the time the trade occurred, but that is no longer the case.
It didn’t take the Flames long to work out a massive eight-year, $84 million extension with Huberdeau. Not only is that one of the biggest contracts in the NHL currently, but it is the richest deal in franchise history. Before he signed it, Sean Monahan’s seven-year, $44.625 million was the most money the organization had ever shelled out.
Donated His Brain to Science
Just days ago, it was announced that Huberdeau had pledged to donate his brain to science. With the announcement, he became just the second active player at the time to do so, joining Ben Lovejoy, who did the same back in 2017. He will be donating his brain to Project Enlist, the Canadian Partner of the Concussion Legacy Foundation.
“As an NHL player, I’m very aware of the impact of traumatic brain injuries, concussions, and the link to other mental health issues,” Huberdeau said at the time. “I’m proud to support Canadian military veterans by pledging to donate my brain to Project Enlist and support research to improve the quality of life of all military personnel who so bravely and courageously served our country.”
Huberdeau will join over 2,800 former athletes and military veterans who have also donated their brains to Project Enlist. The hope is that with him stepping up, other hockey players, both active and former, are willing to do the same moving forward, as it could really help future generations dealing with brain injuries such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
Fan Favorite in Calgary
Despite having yet to play a game for the Flames, Huberdeau is already beloved by the city of Calgary and its fanbase. Bringing him in saved what was shaping up as a disastrous offseason for the organization, and the fact that he committed to eight additional years after both Gaudreau and Tkachuk left has made him all the more endearing. While we may not see another 115-point outing from him, he will continue to be an exceptional talent for years to come.