The 2020-21 season was business as usual for Florida Panthers superstar Jonathan Huberdeau. The Quebec-native had his third consecutive season at over a point-per-game pace, registering 20 goals and 61 points in 55 games this year. His 61 points had him tied for 11th in the NHL while his 41 assists were the eighth-most in the league.
Huberdeau’s unique, combined skillset of playmaking and goal-scoring makes him one of the best players the NHL has to offer. He had the second-best season of his spectacular career statistically, as he was on an 82-game pace of 29 goals and 90 points.
What Huberdeau Brought to the Table
The best thing about Huberdeau is that no matter who you put him on a line with, he always finds a way to make whoever he plays with better. This is where a lot of the Panthers’ success came from this season, as the superstar winger has actually spent most of his ice time away from captain and fellow superstar Aleksander Barkov.
According to Dobber Sports, Huberdeau spent 32.6% of his ice time on a line with Alex Wennberg and Patric Hornqvist. In the 329 minutes he spent on that line, Huberdeau helped Hornqvist match his 2019-20 points total of 32 in eight-fewer games, and saw Wennberg flourish to a career high of 17 goals during the shortened season. He simply makes his linemates better.
After the trade deadline, Huberdeau saw himself on a line with newcomer Sam Bennett, who had just four goals and 12 points in 38 games with the Calgary Flames. In the 10 games since he became Huberdeau’s centerman in Florida, Bennett tallied six goals and 15 points.
All of these stats correlate to one thing: Huberdeau’s playmaking has been making whoever he plays on a line with a better player. He’s dangerous with the puck and draws the defense towards him, then he’s able to bait the defender over to him and beat them with whatever tricks he has up his sleeve.
On this play in particular, Huberdeau splits the defense between Victor Hedman and Jan Rutta, and draws both of them over to the side he’s on to open up the slot for Owen Tippett. He then is able to get the pass off between the two Lightning defenders with an absolutely beautiful spin-o-rama to feed that puck to Tippett, who pots the goal.
These are the types of plays that Huberdeau has been making all season, and it worked wonders for the Panthers. There are a short list of wingers in the NHL who are able to make their linemates better the way Huberdeau does, and this season, he showed us why he ranks near the top of that list.
What to Look for Next Season
With Huberdeau wrapping up one of the best seasons that a Panthers forward has ever had, there’s not much he can improve. However, there is another challenge that could await him in the 2021-22 season.
With 19-year-old centerman Anton Lundell in the fold after Florida signed him to his entry-level deal on Sunday, June 7, Huberdeau has a chance to help the Panthers develop another franchise cornerstone. If Florida decides to pair the two together, look for the 2020 first-round pick to develop into a favorite for the Calder Trophy next season.
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With Huberdeau’s skillset that makes his linemates better paired with Lundell’s ability to get into the right areas and shoot the puck, helping the Finnish forward learn the NHL game may be Huberdeau’s next challenge.
Regular Season: 20 goals (T-30 in the NHL, 2 on FLA), 41 assists (T-8 NHL, 1 FLA), 61 points (T-11 NHL, 1 FLA) in 55 games played.
Playoffs: 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points in six games played.
Fun Fact: Huberdeau’s 19 power-play assists tied him for 5th in the entire NHL.
Final Grade: A+
Huberdeau was far and away one of the best players that the NHL had to offer in the 2020-21 season. He was a huge part of the Panthers’ successful campaign that saw them return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2016.