Draft Week: Jonathan Huberdeau

With the 2011 NHL Entry Draft coming up this Friday, SenShot will take a look at the five forward prospects that will be on Ottawa’s radar come draft night. Today, we examine Jonathan Huberdeau.

 

The Saint John Sea Dogs’ superstar forward has been one of the best players in junior hockey this past year. Shooting up the draft rankings, Jonathan Huberdeau has found himself as a top three draft prospect who could be the best goal scorer to come out of this draft. Coming on late last season with 35 points in 61 games, Huberdeau shined this season as the offensive leader of Saint John with 43 goals and 105 points in 67 games. He also set new single-season club records for Saint John in both points and assists while his plus-59 rating ranked first in the league.

Leading his team through the QMJHL playoffs, Huberdeau notched 16 goals and was named playoff MVP as the Sea Dogs won the Quebec championship. Next up was the Memorial Cup finals where he led his team to the Cup and won the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the 2011 Memorial Cup MVP – he finished with three goals and six points in Saint John’s four games, including an overtime winner. He became the sixth forward in 12 years to be named MVP of his league playoffs and the Memorial Cup, joining Brad Richards (2000), Danny Groulx (2002), Derek Roy (2003), Corey Perry (2005) and Taylor Hall (2009) as the select few to accomplish the feat.

The 6’1”, 170 lbs center who can also line up as winger, has slick puck handling skills, speed to burn and a nose for the net. Going 11 for 13 in shootouts this year, Huberdeau just knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. It’s possible for Huberdeau to step into the NHL right away next season, but patience may be best as he can add strength to his frame and make him that much more dangerous on the ice. Here’s what the experts say:

As per TSN‘s Bob McKenzie,

Strengths - Poised puck carrier who sees the whole ice surface, very creative, protects the puck well and uses all of his linemates, dangerous forechecker with excellent anticipation, hard worker who rarely takes a shift off. Just keeps getting better and better, smart player, great hands, hard shot.

Weaknesses – Needs to get stronger, particularly in his lower body. Will need to keep working on his quickness.

NHL Upside – First or second-line forward with decent size and two-way abilities. One of the draft’s safer picks – he’ll play a key role on whatever team that drafts him.

As per The Hockey News Draft Preview,

A bit of a late bloomer, the Sea Dogs star is believed to have potentially more offensive upside than his peer on the Voltigeurs (Couturier). Huberdeau outpointed Couturier in the regular season (though he also played more games) and scouts have seen him get better since the last half of 2009-10, when he began to take off with Saint John. The Sea Dogs were one of the best teams in “Q” history this season and Huberdeau was the catalyst. His frame still needs filling out as he progresses.

NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau

“He’s the type of player who can change the outcome of a game suddenly and quickly. He’s displayed unbelievably quick hands and an ability to set up and score goals. He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability . . . he’s also gritty and does not back down when challenged.”

Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant

“He’s still not the fastest, but I’d certainly label him the craftiest on our team. He’s a quality, character kid. He competes both ways, battles for those goals around the net and competes hard in every situation. I can put Jonathan on the ice in any situation … the last minute of a game when we’re behind by a goal or ahead by a goal. He comes to play every time. His vision is outstanding, he has great puck skills and I think he’s the complete package.”

McKenzie has Huberdeau ranked third overall, while The Hockey News has him at fifth overall, and the International Scouting Services also have him at third overall. Here’s a video of Huberdeau courtesy of NHL.com.

If Huberdeau was selected by the Sens, what should Sens Army expect?

If Ottawa were to draft Huberdeau, he would most likely be converted into a winger and groomed to be on Jason Spezza’s left as a trigger man. With the finishing abilities of Huberdeau, Ottawa would have a legitimate top three impact forward who could be the best goal scorer to come out of this draft class. And with Huberdeau’s potential, a 50-goal campaign is not out of the question.

Also intriguing to Ottawa is Huberdeau’s birth place as he was born in Quebec. The French-Canadian forward who speaks French and English would be able to appeal to the French speaking community close to Ottawa and would bring in a new market of fans. And on the media side, he would be able to generate more media coverage in Quebec for the Sens.

Most likely, Huberdeau will be gone by the time Ottawa steps up to the podium at the sixth position. If Ottawa truly believes Huberdeau is worth the price to move up and draft him, look for GM Byran Murray to do all that he can do land him. To be realistic, Huberdeau is a long shot to end up in a Sens jersey. But the question must be asked- could he be the next Ottawa Senator?

Check out the other prospects we have examined so far: Sean CouturierRyan Strome and Mika Zibanejad

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft goes Friday and Saturday in Minnesota. Stay tuned to SenShot as we will provide complete coverage of the draft and of all the prospects selected.

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Tags: 2011 NHL Entry Draft Jason Spezza Jonathan Huberdeau Mika Zibanejad Ottawa Senators Ryan Strome Saint John Sea Dogs Sean Couturier TSN

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