It doesn’t take long for the chants to start.
During player introductions ahead of each Florida Panthers home game, BB&T Center is filled with shouts of “HUUB” as left wing Jonathan Huberdeau makes his way to the ice.
The veteran has given fans plenty of reason to cheer since entering the league. The Panthers drafted him with the third overall pick in 2011.
He’s one of the top scorers in Panthers history, sitting at No. 7 all-time in goals (128) and third in points (367), and he has been an asset for the Panthers (4-2-3) with his passing.
Last year, he set the franchise record for most assists in a single season (62). And now, in his eighth NHL season, the 26-year-old can potentially set a new Panthers all-time assists record.
Huberdeau notched his sixth assist of the season in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The mark is second on the team this season behind linemate Aleksander Barkov. And Huberdeau needs just 11 more to pass Stephen Weiss’ all-time team assist record of 249.
After finishing the 2018-19 campaign with a career-high 92 points (30 goals, 62 assists), the Saint-Jerome, Quebec, native has continued his impactful scoring. He leads the team with 10 points, and he scored his fourth goal of the season when he tipped in a shot from defenseman Anton Stralman in the third quarter Tuesday.
“[Huberdeau] with the puck is dangerous,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said after the win. “ … I think he’s one of those guys that is a threat to score every time he’s on the ice. I just think that defensively we need to do the right things so we can be even better.”
His one-goal, one-assist performance helped extend the Panthers’ consecutive points streak to six games as they head into a four-game road stretch, which starts Friday night in Calgary, Alberta, against the Calgary Flames (5-5-1).
“We’ve had a lot of games in overtime lately, so I thought it was good to get a regulation win,” Huberdeau said after Tuesday’s game. “And I thought it was good to get some points early. That’s what we want, especially before going on a long road trip. It was good to get the points at home.”
Huberdeau, who has appeared on the score sheet in seven of the Panthers’ first nine games, has yet to make an NHL All-Star appearance, but he has made a case through the first few games of the 2019 season. And he has done so on a Panthers team that just now seems to be hitting its stride with a new coach and a plethora of new pieces.
“Lately, I’ve been struggling a little bit,” he said. “but I just want to help our team. I want to be a leader out there, and every time I’m on the ice I want to be good in the offensive zone as much as possible.”