One year ago, Windsor's Taylor Hall used the OHL playoffs and 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament in Brandon as a springboard for establishing himself as his draft class's No. 1 pick.
In 2011, that honor has gone to Saint John Sea Dogs left winger Jonathan Huberdeau- we've calling him "J-Money" these days.
Here's an NHL-produced video on him, but even it doesn't do much justice to him.
Although he's a member of a deep and "stacked" team, so was Hall, right? Players on great teams still have to produce and make the plays, and Huberdeau has done that.
"It's not just the production, but the timeliness and importance of his goals and points," said an NHL scout recently. "He was a big-time scorer for them in the regular season and he's carried it over."
He scored an overtime goal to win one of his team's games against Victoriaville in the second round (winning the series 4 games to 1), and then in the deciding game of the President's Cup series against Gatineau, he tied it with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation with as calm and poised a play you will ever see. His team then went on to win the QMJHL championship in double-OT on a goal by Alexandre Beauregard.
In Game 2 of the Memorial Cup against Owen Sound, Huberdeau capped a come-from-behind victory with an overtime strike against Jordan Binnington, another 2011 draft candidate. It may not have been the prettiest goal, but J-Money was left alone in front of the Owen Sound net and was able to beat the netminder, who has been quite good in his own right since coming into Game 6 of the OHL championship series. It wasn't a picture perfect goal as it took him an extra second to get control of the puck after Stanislav Galiev's pass slid off his stick blade. However, he buried it to send his team to the final.
Here's the call in French on RDS and it's a beaut. (Or is it a but? It's both!) Thanks to Jérôme Bérubé for the hookup.
Huberdeau came into the season as a solid second-rounder, but now he might go as high as second overall. It probably won't happen, as we still see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog as better players overall, but you never know. Those guys haven't been playing hockey since late March/earl April.
J-Money is still writing his scouting report and staying fresh in teams' minds. There's a lot to be said about that extra spring bounce that not every player has a chance to benefit from.
Just ask Hall.