Panthers' Huberdeau: 'I want to forget about last year'
Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau followed up his Calder Trophy win in 2013 with a disappointing sophomore season, seeing his production fall from 31 points in 48 games as a rookie to nine goals and 19 assists in 69 games in 2013-14.
As his third NHL season gets set to begin, Huberdeau is clearly looking to move forward, saying, quite simply, "I want to forget about last year."
General manager Dale Tallon, however, chalks up last season's struggles to the old sophomore slump.
"(For Huberdeau) it's a learning process and obviously the second year always seems to be the year it affects rookies,'' Tallon told the Sun-Sentinel. "Expectations are higher and they're not surprises to teams that now focus on them.''
In fairness, Huberdeau suffered a foot injury last December, sustained a concussion back in March, and underwent hip surgery in May. He started his road back to where he and the Panthers want him to be at the IIHF World Championships, recording a goal and four assists in eight games for Canada, and then in the gym, where he added 17 pounds of muscle.
"I finished up well at the World Championships, and when I got back to Montreal I really worked on getting my hip strong, so now I have a really good feeling about myself and my strength,'' he said. "I'm looking forward to this year. It's going to be fun and I don't want to lose that.''
Huberdeau believes a reunion with former Saint John Sea Dogs, and current Panthers head coach, Gerard Gallant will serve him well. The young player is a key piece as Tallon works towards building a winning team in Florida, and a bounce back under Gallant will go a long way in terms of improving the club's chances in the upcoming season.