SUNRISE — Jonathan Huberdeau was the Florida Panthers last All-Star representative in 2020 and, at least for now, will be the only player headed to this year’s event in Las Vegas.
On Thursday night, Huberdeau was the lone member of the Panthers to be named to the Atlantic Division team.
Team captain Sasha Barkov did not make the initial team but could still be voted onto the team as part of the league’s “Last Men In” ballot in which one additional player will be put on each of the four divisional teams.
Coach Andrew Brunette, who is still considered Florida’s interim bench boss, was previously named to head up Team Atlantic.
The NHL All-Star Weekend will be held Feb. 4-5 at T-Mobile Arena off the Las Vegas Strip.
”It’s kind of some unusual circumstances, being an interim head coach,” he said after Tuesday announcement.
“It’s probably not completely deserved; it’s how well our group played. I’m just a benefit of how they’ve played all year. I am very fortunate to be in this position and am very grateful for the opportunity.
“This is a team thing. I am just along for the ride.”
His players don’t necessarily feel that way.
“It’s so cool,’’ Aaron Ekblad said, noting the smiles his teammates had when Brunette’s selection was announced during the game Tuesday. “He stepped into a situation that was not real easy and did a great job with it. He has really given us a chance to succeed with his excitement and passion for the game every day.”
Brunette is the first Florida All-Star coach since Gerard Gallant led the Atlantic team in 2016.
Florida sent four representatives to that All-Star Weekend in Nashville: Gallant, Atlantic captain Jaromir Jagr, goalie Roberto Luongo and Ekblad.
The Panthers had Huberdeau, Barkov, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ekblad on this year’s All-Star ballot.
If Barkov ended up being voted in by fans, it would be his second trip to an All-Star Game.
Huberdeau made his All-Star debut in St. Louis a few weeks before the NHL shut things down due to Covid-19 back in 2020.
Not only is the Florida winger fifth in the NHL in scoring with 47 points and second to Nazim Kadri with 34 assists, but since the 2021 season he is tied for third in scoring with 108 points.
“One of the premier playmakers in the National Hockey League, Jonathan’s production is matched only by his consummate professionalism,” Panthers GM Bill Zito said in a statement released by the team.
“He is an all-star leader and teammate, making those around him better in every way. We are proud that he has earned this tremendous opportunity and are looking forward to him bringing the growing excitement surrounding the Florida Panthers to Las Vegas.”
Each of the rosters for the four NHL divisions are made up of 11 players.
Toronto’s Auston Matthews will be the Atlantic captain.
The 11th player for each team will be selected through the ‘Last Men In’ voting, which runs through 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday.
The 2022 All-Star Game will be held on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. on ABC-10 and consists of a three-game tournament played in a 3-on-3 format.
The All-Stars Skills challenge will be the night before at 7:30 on ESPN.
The Panthers are expected to be named the host of the 2023 NHL All-Star Weekend at the event in Vegas.
The team was set to host All-Star Weekend in 2021 but it was canceled due to the shortened NHL schedule.
The organization reportedly asked the league to move it back to next season due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic.
That will be the second time Sunrise has hosted the NHL event, the previous time coming in 2023.