Sometimes, later-round Draft picks are seen as longshots to make the NHL.
Ryane Clowe and Tommy Wingels (6th round). Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun and Jason Demers (7th round). Evgeni Nabokov (9th round).
The Sharks have unearthed gems from the later round before.
This year’s candidate to be the next late-round steal is forward Kevin Labanc, a New York City native who seems to embody a blue-collar approach to the game.
Being that Labanc is only a 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward and considers his style to be of the blue-collar variety, perhaps the best comparison for him is to Ryan Callahan. Callahan displayed similar characteristics as Labanc does when he emerged from the Draft’s later rounds to become a quality NHL player, so there’s no reason to believe Labanc can’t follow in Callahan’s footsteps.
And perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but Labanc says that his favorite player growing up was Ryan Callahan.
Labanc brings more than just a meat-and-potatoes approach to the game. He also carries an underrated set of hands.
- Originally a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Labanc seemed destined to play collegiate hockey. However, he instead elected to play Canadian junior hockey for the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts, where he was a teammate of 2014’s first overall selection, Aaron Ekblad.
- Shortly after being drafted by the Sharks, Labanc bluntly explained that the reason he chose to play in the Ontario Hockey League was because he thinks it is a “better league” than the NCAA.
- Another reason that choosing to play for Barrie has benefited Labanc is that his coach there is Dale Hawerchuk, a Hockey Hall of Famer former goal-scoring star who was drafted first overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1981. Bottom line is that Labanc’s development is currently in the hands of a coach who knows exactly what it is he’ll have to do to develop into an NHL player.
- Labanc was born in the New York City borough of Staten Island, and played hockey as a teenager for the New Jersey Rockets junior team, which are based out of the New Jersey Devils practice facility connected to the Prudential Center.
- Although the New Jersey Rockets are not a major junior hockey team, they have produced a handful of notable NHL players. Both Jeremy Roenick and current Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson are former Rockets.