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2011 NHL Draft

Huberdeau Skates To Top Of 2011 Draft Rankings

Wednesday, 05.04.2011 / 4:10 PM / 2011 NHL Draft
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Huberdeau Skates To Top Of 2011 Draft Rankings
Jonathan Huberdeau tried speed skating in hockey skates, which didn\'t go well. When he switched to hockey full time, his skates -- and everything else -- fit the top 2011 Entry Draft prospect just fine.
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Mike G. Morreale | Staff Writer

Jonathan Huberdeau took the non-traditional path in learning how to skate -- and he paid the price.

"My mom and dad wanted me to learn how to skate before playing hockey," Huberdeau told, "so they enrolled me in these speed-skating classes."

Since Huberdeau didn't own a pair of speed skates, he used hockey skates instead. Needless to say, the results were hardly encouraging.

"It was funny," he said. "I always came in last. I would jump out to a lead at the start, but then I'd always look over my shoulder and lose my speed. They'd all catch up and that was it."

Fortunately for Huberdeau, he'd prove himself a worthy candidate for hockey in the eyes of his parents. He was the leading scorer for the No. 1-ranked junior hockey team in the Canadian Hockey League, the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"He's still not the fastest, but I'd certainly label him the craftiest on our team," Saint John coach Gerard Gallant told "There are other guys on our team quicker, like (Tomas) Jurco and (Stanislav) Galiev. But when Jonathan has the puck, he's very quick and makes good decisions. He goes East-West, North-South all the time, so I wouldn't say he's the quickest guy from blue line to blue line, but he's among the top three or four, for sure."

Huberdeau is first among nine Sea Dogs on NHL Central Scouting's list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters.

The native of Saint-Jerome, Que., led the team with 43 goals, 62 assists, 105 points and a plus-59 rating in 67 games during the regular season. His 105 points are not only third in the QMJHL, but the most by a player in franchise history, surpassing the 95 scored by Chris DiDomenico in 2007-08. He has gotten better in the playoffs, compiling 25 points (13 goals) in 13 games as St. Johns faces Gatineau for the QMJHL Championship and a ticket to the Memorial Cup.

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All that has done is land him at No. 3 Central Scouting's final rankings, a spot from his No. 4 position in the Mid-term rankings.

"I think (being No. 4) surprised me a little bit, but I don't want to be cocky about it," Huberdeau said back after finding out his position in the mid-season rankings. "I may be in the top four, but there are a lot of good players after me. I'm going to keep playing the way I've been playing since the beginning of the season, and then we'll see what happens in June."

He's a projected first-round pick for the 2011 Entry Draft, June 24-25 in St. Paul, Minn., along with fellow teammates Nathan Beaulieu (No. 5 in final rankings), Zack Phillips (No. 15) and Tomas Jurco (No. 20).

Phillips, Huberdeau's linemate for much of the season, tied for sixth in the QMJHL with 95 points (38 goals).

"His vision on the ice is the best I've seen," Phillips said of his linemate. "He's a winger for me and unbelievable with getting the puck off the boards and up to me at center. We work off each other really well with nice passes and he's rated very high and deserves to be there."

NHL Network analyst Craig Button, a former NHL scout and general manager, has Huberdeau ranked fourth on his draft cheat sheet -- the second-best center on his list, behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

At 6-foot-1 1/4 and 170 pounds, Huberdeau has received high praise for his ability to attack the puck, play strong around the net and excel in pressure situations. Gallant rarely thinks twice about putting Huberdeau on the ice in the last minute of a tight game or in a shootout.

"He's a top player and gets better every game he plays ... our problem is you just don't want to overplay him or use him too much," Gallant said. "He's a quality, character kid. He competes both ways, battles for those goals around the net and competes hard in every situation."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau, who has specialized in rating players from the QMJHL for 18 years, agrees with Gallant's assessment.

"He's the type of player who can change the outcome of a game suddenly and quickly," Bordeleau told "He's displayed unbelievably quick hands and an ability to set up and score goals. He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability."

Scouts have said Huberdeau will need to put on some weight and add some muscle to become an even greater threat and eventual top-line center in the NHL, but that also could be said of every other prospect on the board.

"His vision on the ice is the best I've seen. He's a winger for me and unbelievable with getting the puck off the boards and up to me at center. We work off each other really well with nice passes and he's rated very high and deserves to be there." - Zack Phillips on his linemate
"Once he puts on 10 or 15 pounds, he should be awesome," Bordeleau said following the mid-term rankings release. "He's also gritty and does not back down when challenged. As far as I'm concerned, he's as good as the top three guys (on Central Scouting's list) ahead of him (No. 1 Gabriel Landeskog, No. 2 Sean Couturier, No. 3 Nugent-Hopkins)."

Huberdeau does feel stronger in the tough areas this season and admits he doesn't mind taking a hit if it opens a lane for a teammate.

"I have good vision and good skill with my hands ... and I can play both ways," he said. "They can put me on penalty killing and I'll do the job on the power play. If the coach wants me to play defensively, I'll do that, it's not a problem. I think that's my strength."

Highly regarded Montreal Juniors defenseman Xavier Ouellet, No. 60 on Central Scouting's final list, has faced Huberdeau twice this season and has come away quite impressed. Huberdeau actually had his first of six multiple-goal games this season in an Oct. 10 game against Montreal.

"He's got unbelievable vision and sees everything on the ice ... he's got good hands, too," Ouellet said. "He's a good playmaker and can score. Overall, he's good everywhere. He's not bad defensively, either."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale




1 MTL 61 40 16 5 167 135 85
2 NYR 60 38 16 6 190 148 82
3 NYI 62 40 20 2 200 173 82
4 TBL 62 37 19 6 203 167 80
5 DET 60 34 15 11 176 156 79
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 62 33 19 10 184 156 76
8 BOS 60 29 22 9 158 158 67
9 FLA 61 26 22 13 145 172 65
10 PHI 62 26 25 11 164 181 63
11 OTT 59 26 23 10 167 161 62
12 NJD 61 25 27 9 137 161 59
13 CBJ 60 26 30 4 157 189 56
14 TOR 61 25 31 5 170 185 55
15 CAR 59 22 30 7 134 159 51
16 BUF 62 19 38 5 120 207 43


N. Bjugstad 61 21 15 -9 36
J. Huberdeau 58 9 24 4 33
A. Ekblad 61 9 23 6 32
J. Jokinen 60 6 25 -3 31
B. Boyes 59 10 18 6 28
J. Hayes 52 17 10 -5 27
A. Barkov 50 9 12 -4 21
T. Fleischmann 52 7 14 12 21
B. Campbell 61 3 17 1 20
D. Bolland 37 3 13 2 16
R. Luongo 22 16 11 .921 2.38
A. Montoya 4 6 2 .893 2.98 is the official Web site of the Florida Panthers. Florida Panthers and are trademarks of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.