NHL Rookie of the Year candidate Jonathan Huberdeau says he’s pulling for the Halifax Mooseheads in Sunday night’s Memorial Cup final in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
"I've seen all the games and for sure I'm going to cheer for the[Quebec Major Junior Hockey League] teams," he said.
The former Saint John Sea Dog is back in the Maritimes this weekend for the first time since since his breakout season with the Florida Panthers.
Huberdeau, who played several games against Halifax this year as a member of the Sea Dogs before the NHL lockout was resolved, said the Mooseheads are the better team and have had more rest than Portland after clinching a spot in the final last Wednesday.
"I'm sure Halifax can win that game. I mean they’re confident, they’ve had a lot of days off so I mean they’re going to be ready for it. [With] the Sea Dogs, we did that too the first year, we had four days off before the final and we’ve played good so I in them to do the same thing in Saskatoon," he said.
Huberdeau played in the world juniors with Halifax stars Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon but his real tie to Halifax is close friend and former Saint John teammate Stephen MacAulay who was traded to the Mooseheads from Saint John mid-season — in part so he could be near his ailing mother.
"I've been good friends with him and he's been good all year and I think he just keeps smiling even if there's tough moments in his life but I wish him to win the Memorial Cup for sure," said Huberdeau.
Huberdeau left the Panthers briefly mid-season and flew himself to Halifax to attend the funeral of MacAulay's mother who passed away in March. He said he's convinced the talented forward will be hoisting his second Memorial Cup tonight — and promises to be watching and cheering if that happens.
In 2011, the now 19-year-old Huberdeau was was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the Memorial Cup tournament's most valuable player when the Saint John Sea Dogs won the title.
He had 31 points this year with Florida, and was tied for first in the NHL among rookies.