2011 NHL Draft: How the Florida Panthers Screwed Up Their First Pick...Again

Robert DemmettCorrespondent IIIJune 24, 2011

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24:  (L-R) General Manager Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers, third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau by the Florida Panthers and Director of Scouting Scott Luce of the Florida Panthers stand at the podium for a photo during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Florida Panthers were excited to start the future. Ten straight seasons without making the playoffs—an NHL record for consecutive years without an appearance. In a league where over half the teams in the league make it to the dance, I would deem it one of the most pathetic franchises in North American professional sports.

That all could have changed tonight. The Panthers held the third pick in the first round of the draft, and after seeing Edmonton pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado select Gabriel Landeskog, they had a decision to make. They could have taken Adam Larsson, a defenseman, or Jonathan Huberdeau, a center.

I am a big believer in having a solid defensive corps. I believe defense wins, and a team should be made starting with a goalie and defense. A rebuilding team should focus on this aspect of the game. Being defensive-minded and playing fundamental hockey means that each and every game, the team is capable of winning by keeping the game close. The Panthers decided to go in the opposite direction by choosing Huberdeau.

Huberdeau played for St. John's in the QMJHL, who recently hoisted the Memorial Cup as the best junior hockey team in Canada. He is a player with speed and nice hands, but will that translate to the NHL?  Huberdeau was not on anybody's radar when the season began and slowly made his way up the rankings to be selected third overall. I think this has disaster written all over it.

The first warning to me was where this kid came from. He was not on anybody's radar and then here comes this kid out of nowhere to take the league by storm and finish as MVP of the Memorial Cup. The second warning was in his interview with TSN and Versus. He said that at the beginning of the year he was playing with "no pressure." To me, that is not a player who I want to build my franchise around (then again it is Florida, there is never any pressure). It sounds to me like this kid was a little motivated to climb up the draft boards. Will this motivation continue throughout his career or did he already accomplish his biggest goal? He has to prove to me that he wasn't just trying to get drafted, but will dedicate himself to a long and effective NHL career.

Huberdeau has nice hands and can dazzle people with his speed and moves. He has to fill out his body and become more physical, but for a No. 3 pick, I would have gone with a defenseman, and with Larsson sitting there, I would have scooped him up. To me, a defenseman is more of a sure thing while taking an offensive player like Huberdeau is more of a risk (especially after the two big boys in Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog were already taken).

But that's why I'm here and Dale Tallon is there. We'll wait and see.

And by the way, the Panthers were making a big deal about their new red uniforms. They just had their same uniform and made the color red. Overall, a disappointing night in my book for the Panthers.


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