Dom Lunardo | January 2nd, 2020
“Hubie, Dubie, Doo”! When Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon acquired Joel Quenneville back in July to coach the Panthers, you knew that things would be different this season in sunny South Florida. After the hire, Tallon went one step further and landed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, via free agency to a 7-year $70M contract. Enter Jonathan Huberdeau and his partner in crime, Aleksander Barkov. Both players have evolved into one of the most dynamic duos the game has to offer. Is there a more lethal 1-2 punch who consistently fly under the radar? Let’s examine the incredible twosome of Huberdeau/Barkov, and what they mean to the Florida Panthers, as a team on the rise in a very competitive Eastern Conference.
Back at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers were “on the clock” and owned the second overall pick. They knew without question that Barkov was the immense, two-way talent they were hoping to land. Since then, while wearing the “C”, Sasha Barkov has played in 452 games and tallied 390 points during that span. What’s even more impressive is that he’s improved each and every year (both physically and statistically) and has become one of the most dominant centers in today’s NHL. But every superstar needs a sidekick does he not? That sidekick appears in the form of Mr. Jonathan Huberdeau.
Taken two years earlier, third overall, at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Panthers could only salivate at the prospects of these two playing alongside each other for the foreseeable future. This season, however, Huberdeau has taken his game to a whole new, almost unprecedented level. With 16 goals, 37 assists, and 53 points in 39 games played so far this season, Huberdeau has played himself into the Hart Trophy conversation. The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to a player deemed most valuable to his team. What’s even more important is that the Panthers are playing a high-octane brand of hockey and winning games in the process.
With a 20-14-5 overall record heading into the 2020 calendar year, it’s safe to say that the Panthers are a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference this season. With the wily-old veteran Head Coach Joel Quenneville pulling the strings behind the bench, and the superstar presence of Sasha Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, and the stability of Bobrovsky in goal, there’s definitely a reason for optimism for the Florida Panthers organization in 2019/20. How far can the Panthers go this season? We can only wait and see as the season unfolds. One thing remains certain, it’ll be a fun ride for the Cats and their fan base under that bright Florida sun.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images