Fri Mar 25 12:57pm EDT
Buzzing The Net is profiling Canadian Hockey League players who are in their NHL draft season.
The difference between Jonathan Huberdeau and Sean Couturier is one goes around defenders and the other bulls through them.
That might illustrate why Huberdeau, to some, has supplanted the more mature Couturier as the top NHL draft prospect from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The team that selects Couturier will have few concerns about him being a bust. The franchise that lands Huberdeau, who recorded the first 100-point season in the Saint John Sea Dogs brief history while helping them tie a league record for wins in a season, might have a superstar. In any event, Huberdeau should help the QMJHL have two Top 10 choices for the first time since 2006.
"The Quebec players don't have the most hype," notes the St. Jerome, Que., native, who was NHL Central Scouting's fourth-ranked domestic skater in January prior to finishing with a club-record 105 points. "I just want to help show people that there a lot of good players in the Q."
Huberdeau, halfway between willowy and rangy at 6-foot-1 and 168 pounds, gave hints of his huge upside with a solid post-season (11 goals, 18 points in 21 games) during the Sea Dogs' run to the President's Cup final in 2010. Stepping on to the Sea Dogs' No. 1 this season, he and fellow draft-season forward Zack Phillips and Washington Capitals-drafted right wing Stanislav Galiev formed arguably one of the Canadian Hockey League's most dangerous lines, combining for 265 points. (Phillips is the de facto centre on the unit.)
With the Sea Dogs zeroing in on trying to reach the MasterCard Memorial Cup, Huberdeau says he's trying to shut out questions about what awaits him in Minneapolis on June 25.
"There's a lot of people talking to me about the draft," says Huberdeau, who is up for the QMJHL's MVP, top professional prospect and personality of the year awards. "I just try to play and not worry about it. If you play well, it will take care of itself."
"Simon Després [the Sea Dogs star 19-year-old defenceman]. He got drafted two years ago [30th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins], so he's always giving me advice on how to de-stress and not to put too much stress on the draft when I should be focusing on playing."
2. Leaving Quebec to play for Saint John introduced you to a new culture. How has that worked out?
"It's a great city. I go to school there, and my view is everything is going well with school, then everything is going to good on the ice. I try to give both the same effort. You always need a Plan B."
3. Who in the NHL do you look at and think, I need to play a little more like him?
"[Tampa Bay Lightning star and fellow Quebecer] Vinny Lecavalier. He's tall, I'm tall, I like to move the puck and I can score too."
4. Outside of your parents, who has had the most impact on you in hockey?
"I think it was my brother Sebastien [who tried out for the Sea Dogs in training camp]. He's three years older than me, so when I was young I was always watching him play and I wanted to be like him. We practised a lot together when we were young, down in the basement."
5. Hockey players have to be super-strict with their diets. What is something you cannot eat too often, but you have it once in a while anyway?"Poutine. For me, I'm not too big [heavy], so I can have it once in a while. I've never eaten a poutine in Saint John. It's more when I'm away, somewhere like Baie-Comeau, like when I'm sitting. Something to have between periods."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.