Humble Huberdeau Reflects On Rookie Season
A season capped with a Calder Trophy, Huberdeau looks to improve in two-way play in second season.
|Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau poses with the Calder Memorial Trophy given to the NHL's best Rookie. (Getty Images)|
Simply having a casual supper in downtown Montreal was all he wanted for his 20th birthday. As an avid tweeter, sports fan and having a slight celebrity crush on Katy Perry, you would think Jonathan Huberdeau is just like any recently turned 20-year-old, enjoying the beginning of young adulthood.
Far from it.
The 6-foot-1 St. Jerome, Que native is anything but normal. Drafted No. 3 overall in 2011 by the Panthers, Huberdeau had an incredible rookie season this past year with Florida. As the first Panther to take home the Calder Memorial Trophy and setting two franchise records for the Panthers, some may say that there is no holding back Huberdeau.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my rookie season,” smiled Huberdeau who tied Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov with a rookie-high 31 points. “Coming off a hard season, it is a great feeling.”
Although Huberdeau was at July’s development camp, he did not participate in any on ice activities because he is nursing his hip injury back to health after surgery in May. Huberdeau will continue his rehab in Montreal until his hip is fully recovered and actually hit the ice for the first time Monday morning. Huberdeau’s recovery continues to progress as being 100 percent ready for training camp is on his mind.
“[You have to] take it slowly. It’s a process and I think I am just following it,” said Huberdeau. “It’s getting better, hopefully I can get back out on the ice soon and I will be ready for training camp.”
He was able to bond with the guys at July’s development camp in other ways, such as attending a Marlins baseball game or going to Whole Foods to learn about healthy eating. Being able to be a leader on the team and get to know the players is just as important to Huberdeau as being able to get back on the ice is.
“[It is] a great week to meet the new guys and the guys you’ve seen before,” said a cheerful Huberdeau. “Team bonding, that’s what I (was) trying to do.”
With his rookie season behind him, Huberdeau knows that he has to come ready to training camp because no ones spot on the team is secure.
“It doesn’t matter that I have the Calder Trophy,” said Huberdeau humbly. “My surgery threw me down a little bit and I am just trying to train harder and harder.”
Huberdeau had many role models on the team that he looked to for support and guidance during his first year. Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell and Peter Mueller gave Huberdeau tips and tricks off the ice and how to focus on the game. His first NHL game was one unlike any other thanks to his readiness as he recorded his first NHL goal on his first shot and added two assists in the 5-1 victory over Carolina on Jan. 19.
“I had my first shot, it was a great moment for me,” said Huberdeau with a sense of reminiscence. “My family had the chance to come down and I couldn’t have asked for a better start.”
Like most 20-year-olds, Huberdeau likes many sports but does not always have the opportunity to actually play them because of the injury risk involved. Huberdeau’s favorite sport aside from hockey, is tennis. An intense follower of the major tennis tournaments like Wimbledon, Huberdeau loves watching tennis pro’s like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Huberdeau also had the opportunity to attend Game 6 of the NBA Finals in which the Miami Heat came back to win in overtime before taking home their second straight NBA Championship in Game 7 . Watching other athletes compete can help an athlete get in the right frame of mind whether it is for a training camp or for a game.
Although Huberdeau does not set specific goals such as wanting to score a certain amount of goals or record a specific number of points, he wants to be more of a two-way player, which is his focus.
“I want to help the team offensively and defensively,” said Huberdeau. “I just want to be a little bit more of a leader this year, since it is my second year.”
Huberdeau adapted very well to the NHL, as the timing of his transition was “kind of weird with the lockout and everything.” The pace of the NHL is completely different then what Huberdeau was used to playing in the junior league. Full of bigger, stronger and more experienced hockey players, Huberdeau was able to make a smooth shift into the professional sports world.
“My teammates helped me a lot and I think it was a difficult season for us with all the injuries,” said Huberdeau. “I think I personally learned a lot and I am ready for this year.”
Coming into the Panthers organization, Huberdeau knew he would have to work hard to play at his best. Putting all his efforts forward and always trying his hardest, Huberdeau thinks its best to not walk onto a team with any expectations.
“You can’t put any pressure on yourself,” said Huberdeau. “It’s cool to have the chance to be in [the NHL]. So I was just doing my best to see what happens with that.”
Certainly, the best did happen.