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Stephen Weiss: Florida Panthers Right Not to Rush Jonathan Huberdeau

Weissdraft Stephen Weiss had a 19th birthday to remember.

On April 3, 2002, Weiss made his NHL debut in Sunrise, scoring a goal in Florida's 3-2 win over the Penguins.

Weiss played in nine games that season, yet that was his only goal. In the following eight games, he notched just one assist as his playing time dwindled.

Even though he was adamant that he wanted to play with the Panthers, Weiss now says he wasn't physically ready for the rigors of the NHL.

With that in mind, Weiss says he agrees with the Panthers' assessment that 18-year-old Jonathan Huberdeau should go back to his junior team in Quebec for a little more seasoning.

"Everyone wants to be here and you don't want to go back,'' said Weiss, the fourth overall pick of the 2001 draft by the Panthers.

“Looking back, I wasn't ready. I wasn't strong enough and to just play 10 minutes a night wasn't the best thing for me. If I was playing as much as I am now, it might be a different story. But I wasn't. That would probably be the case for Jonathan, so he's better off.''

Huberdraft Huberdeau was sent back to Saint John of the QMJHL on Monday.

“He's going to be a great player, I don't think there's any doubt about that,'' said Weiss, who has played in 548 games with the Panthers since that first season.

“There's no rush to put him in this kind of situation. I think it will be good for him to go back and score a lot and win and do what he did last year if not better. Hopefully he takes it the right way and continues to work knowing he's going to be here for a long time.

"He has a long career ahead. Right now he should play with his buddies and guys his own age. He needs to enjoy this year.''