SUNRISE, Fla. | Jonathan Huberdeau grew up in Saint-Jerome, Quebec, 40 minutes outside of Montreal, so it’s natural that he watched a lot of Canadiens games. Huberdeau was 6 years old when Mike Ribeiro made his NHL debut and recalled being a fan of the playmaking center.
“Great player. He’s from Montreal and I think he has great vision,” the Florida Panthers rookie center said. “I always like comparing myself to him on the ice a little. That’s why he was one of my favorite players. I just followed him a lot.”
Huberdeau wasn’t a kid with posters of his favorite players, like Ribeiro and Vinny Lecavalier, hanging in his room. But he idolized those guys.
Now, the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft gets a chance to play against his favorites growing up. It’s an enjoyable experience, even if the 32-year-old Ribeiro has a different take.
“I guess I’m old,” Ribeiro said with a smile. “It’s fun. You see kids that look up to you, and you feel old, too. You feel both sides. You’re like, ‘OK, maybe I’ve been playing for too long.’
“It’s nice to see that, especially kids from home. It just makes you feel a little bit better that maybe you give hope to those smaller guys and the chance and they see, if he can make it, then I can make it.”
Huberdeau said Tuesday morning he had yet to meet Ribeiro. Tuesday night was to be the second time they played in a game against each other.
But the 19-year-old sees some of Ribeiro’s game in his.
“Yeah a little bit. I like his vision. I’m more a guy with good vision, so I like him,” Huberdeau said. “I think he has great vision, so I always compare myself to him. For sure I’m not there yet, but he’s just a great player to watch on the ice. He’s more of a passer, I think, and that’s what I am, too.”
Ribeiro on Saturday night was more concerned with his own play and that of Florida’s defenseman, so he didn’t study Huberdeau’s play to gauge similarities. But if the young center continues to impress, Ribeiro will notice.
“I saw him on highlights a few times,” he said. “I guess I’ll take a look tonight a little bit more.”