With an assist on Sam Bennett’s second goal of the Florida Panthers’ 5-1 win over the New York Islanders Saturday night, Jonathan Huberdeau became the first player in Panthers history to hit 500 points with the team.
He previously broke the Panthers’ franchise points record held by Olli Jokinen (419) on Jan. 12, 2020, with a two-point performance in an 8-4 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Huberdeau wasn’t focused on setting any kind of franchise record, however.
He says he wants one thing and one thing only — to make the Panthers a winning franchise.
“It’s a cool achievement, obviously it’s a smaller franchise that hasn’t been around as long, but I’m fortunate that it’s my 10th year here and that the owner [Vinnie Viola] believes in [us,]” Huberdeau said.
“Me, [Aaron Ekblad,] and [Sasha Barkov] are the same core group and we haven’t been winning a lot and he still believes in us. Now is the time for us to show up.
“Obviously, it’s cool about the points, but that’s not what we’re worried about. We want to win as a team and that’s all that matters.”
Huberdeau certainly helped the Panthers win Saturday — with linemate Sam Bennett ending with a hat trick.
“It’s a treat. Honestly, he’s one of the most gifted players in this league,” Bennett said when asked about playing with Huberdeau.
“In my mind, he’s the best playmaker in the league without question. To be able to play with him makes playing the game a lot easier and a lot more fun. I’m just going to keep playing, ride it out with him, and play with him for as long as I can because it’s a blast.”
Florida coach Joel Quenneville had high praise for his star player after his accomplishment on Saturday night
“The way he’s evolved over the time I’ve been here, I think last year he went to the next level,” Quenneville said. “During that last part of last year, [the Huberdeau-Bennett-Tippett] line was dangerous as heck.
“I think with the puck and with play recognition and how he can make plays in tight areas sustain possession and make passes out of those areas is just as good as anyone in the game. He’s a specialist in certain areas, but when he’s on the puck, he’s as good as there is at protecting it and making things happen.”
Huberdeau, who was drafted third overall by the Panthers in the 2011 NHL Draft, also holds the franchise record for assists (332.)
“It means a lot, [I am] pretty fortunate to be able to play in the same organization. [I was] drafted here and it has been quite a ride and I think obviously it’s fun to get 500,’’ Huberdeau said. “Hopefully, I have more ahead of me.”
Huberdeau needs 61 more games played to break Stephen Weiss’ record of 654 games in a Florida Panthers uniform.
He currently trails Radek Dvorak (613) by 20 games for second all-time.