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Huberdeau Returned to Juniors; Gudbranson Named to Opening Night Roster

Monday, 10.3.2011 / 2:49 PM ET / News
By Carly Peters  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Huberdeau Returned to Juniors; Gudbranson Named to Opening Night Roster
Jonathan Huberdeau celebrates one of his pre-season goals at the BankAtlantic Center with Kris Versteeg.
What was expected to be a routine Florida Panthers practice at Saveology.com Iceplex Monday morning turned into a newsworthy event when head coach Kevin Dineen talked to the media after the skate.

Dineen announced that Panthers rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson will start the season with the club and make his NHL debut Saturday when the Cats visit the New York Islanders, but the noteworthy comment was overshadowed by the news that prospect Jonathan Huberdeau will not skate with the Panthers this season and will be returned to his junior club, the Saint John Sea Dogs.

"He made that an extremely tough decision for us, given his maturity as a person and his play," Dineen said of Huberdeau, before adding, "at this time, he still has some physical maturing to do and that is better suited at the junior level."

Dineen repeatedly talked about Huberdeau's skill, which was evident this preseason as the 18-year-old posted three goals and one assist in five games, leading the club in goals and tied for the team lead in points. The head coach said that impressive performance made it "very tempting" to push Huberdeau's progression, but it was ultimately the right call to let him develop in juniors with the Saint John Sea Dogs, a program Dineen referred to as "excellent."

While Huberdeau would have certainly welcomed a chance to play in the NHL this season, he admitted that he agreed with the decision.

"It's just precaution; I'm not that big and I don't want to get hurt this year," said the Panthers 2011 first-round pick (3rd overall).

The Saint-Jerome, Que., native admitted that he felt outmuscled against league veterans and talked about getting stronger during the upcoming season.

Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon echoed Dineen and Huberdeau's sentiments on the decision in his session with the media this afternoon.

"It was tempting, really tempting. But you've got to make the decision that's best long term, for the kid's benefit and our benefit," said Tallon. "You could tell there's a vulnerability as far as the size, but we know we didn't mess up on the draft, that's for sure."

"You've got 220-pound, 30-year-old guys leaning on him; he's not playing against 160-pound, 170-pound kids. And you go deeper into the season, more vulnerability as far as getting hurt, and we're here for the long haul. We know that he can play…It's exciting for our franchise to know we have that."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
5 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
6 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 55 25 24 6 154 169 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 51 17 21 14 38
J. Jokinen 54 11 27 12 38
J. Huberdeau 54 10 28 12 38
V. Trocheck 54 17 18 3 35
A. Barkov 43 16 19 13 35
R. Smith 54 18 16 12 34
B. Pirri 50 11 13 -4 24
A. Ekblad 50 10 13 20 23
B. Campbell 54 5 17 20 22
N. Bjugstad 39 9 10 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 24 13 5 .928 2.17
A. Montoya 8 3 1 .929 2.01

 
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