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2011 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Jonathan Huberdeau

Jonathan Huberdeau played left-wing last year for Saint John, a shift for players who can't play center in the NHL.

But don't let that shift fool you - Huberdeau is a legitimate center ready to take the next step.

"He can play center," TSN analyst and former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "I think [his playing left wing] was more a case of his versatility. I think the fact is they (Saint John) had a number of centermen in their lineup. But I think he's the classic guy that can start on the wing and then move into the middle of the ice. Usually it's the reverse. Usually you see centers that are converted to wing, but I think he's a guy that can move into the middle of the ice.

"He's a hell of a player."

The New Jersey Devils hold the fourth pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft, and several mock drafts have them selecting Huberdeau. The 6-1, 171 pound center is ranked the number 3 North American skater by NHL's Central Scouting Service.

The native of Saint-Jerome, Quebec led Saint John with 43 goals, 62 assists and 105 points. He continued that strong performance in the Memorial Cup, posting six points in four games. That performance earned him tournament MVP honors.

Huberdeau believes playing left-wing helped him develop.

"The coach put me on the left wing because we had so many centers," he told Gultti. "I think it's good that I learned to play both."

Huberdeau gained praise for his playmaking abilities, a key aspect for his switch back to center. Saint John's coach Gerard Gallant called him the craftiest player on the team.

"He's still not the fastest, but I'd certainly label him the craftiest on our team," Gallant told NHL.com. "There are other guys on our team quicker, like (Tomas) Jurco and (Stanislav) Galiev. But when Jonathan has the puck, he's very quick and makes good decisions. He goes East-West, North-South all the time, so I wouldn't say he's the quickest guy from blue line to blue line, but he's among the top three or four, for sure."

The Devils interviewed Huberdeau at the scouting combine and met with him again to put him through further fitness testing. If he can make a successful transition to center, the Devils could finally find a center for Kovalchuk.

Like many prospects, scouts believe Huberdeau needs to add size and weight to compete in the NHL. But he believes he can contribute immediately.

"You want to play as fast as you can," he told Gulitti. "I'll do everything this summer to get ready and go to training camp."