Welcome to “Vaulted,” a new series in which we take a look back a moments that are worthy of being enshrined within the Florida Panthers Virtual Vault, which is presented by Baptist Health.
The third-overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Jonathan Huberdeau kicked off his rookie season in epic fashion, scoring on his first-ever NHL shot in 5-1 victory over Carolina on Jan. 19, 2013.
“Huberdeau, for his first NHL game, has been great,” Florida Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski told reporters after the win in which Huberdeau tallied three points and earned first-star honors.
After just one game, the Panthers knew Huberdeau was special. By the end of the season, the rest of the NHL was aware as well.
[The Vault: Huberdeau lights the lamp just 3:37 into his NHL debut]
Finishing with 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) during the 48-game, lockout-shortened season in 2012-13, Huberdeau managed to beat out two other forwards — Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher and Chicago’s Brandon Saad — to claim the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
In doing so, the Quebec native became the first player in franchise history to win the accolade.
“It was a surprise,” Huberdeau said after receiving his award at the United Center in Chicago during a live broadcast that aired on NBC Sports Network. “I didn’t know I was going to win it.”
With 179 members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association casting ballots, the vote for the Calder came down to the wire. Huberdeau and Gallagher each received 54 first-place votes, while Huberdeau’s 55-44 advantage in second-place votes ended up helping decide the race.
“There’s two other guys and there was a lot of good rookies this year,” said Huberdeau, who had just turned 20 shortly before winning the award. “Gallagher had a great season. And Saad as well, too. It’s still going for him. I wasn’t expecting anything and I’m glad that I won it.”
Finishing the season strong, it’s safe to say Huberdeau secured the award in the second half. After posting nine points in 13 games in February to capture “Rookie of the Month” honors in the NHL, he went on to register 12 points in 16 games in March and six points in 12 games in April.
In the final game of the season, he racked up three assists in a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay.
“I’m glad I finished like this,” Huberdeau said after beating the Bolts.
[The Vault: Huberdeau poses with the Calder Trophy]
Now in his eighth season with the Panthers, Huberdeau has evolved into one of the league’s premier forwards since his Calder-winning campaign. After notching a career-high 92 points in 2018-19, he went on to lead the team in regular-season scoring with 78 points in 2019-20.
At just 27 years old, he stands as Florida’s all-time leader in points (437) and assists (289).
“It was a big win. We knew we needed it tonight,” Huberdeau said after becoming the franchise’s all-time points leader back in January of this season. “Obviously, on top of that, to be first in franchise history [for points] is cool. I’m going to try and enjoy that tonight.”
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