It was 10 years ago when the Sharks best late round pick in history played his first game for the big club. Joe Pavelski opened the 2006-07 season with the Worcester Sharks before cracking the lineup with the NHL club about a month into the season.
Number 53 scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game before going on a tear of seven goals and 10 points in his first 12 games. Before getting his chance in the NHL, Pavelski had to show he could dominate the AHL.
Pavelski had 26 points in 16 games for Worcester during the 2006-07 season. Doug Wilson and Ron Wilson knew they couldn’t keep him in the minors much longer. It may be a bit early, but 2014 sixth round pick Kevin Labanc is showing much of the same pattern as young Pavs. So I don’t get in trouble here I do want to state that I love Joe Pavelski and I’m not the first to compare Pavs and Labanc.
San Jose Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer has been comparing the two for quite some time. Sommer has been quoted saying that Labanc has the hardest and most accurate shot he’s ever coached in the AHL, including Logan Couture, and his knack for the net is much like Pavelski’s, who Sommer also coached.
Labanc has had seven points in his first four AHL games with the Barracuda. What sticks out more than his scoring production though is his ability to make Nikolay Goldobin relevant again. Goldobin also has seven points to start the season.
People always say that a great player can make other players great around him too. A first round pick that’s supposed to be a pure scorer like Goldobin only had 44 points in 60 games last year. Sure, it could have been worse, but with the defensive liability that Goldobin is he needs to be over a point-per-game player in the AHL. Goldobin was looking like a bust until the start of this season and maybe all he needed was a player of Labanc’s caliber to make him play better.
The current Sharks that are capable of making their teammates better are of course Pavelski and Joe Thornton, but also Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. That’s pretty good company to be in and Labanc could join them soon. He’ll have to show that he can keep producing down in the minors, but all indications are that he should be getting a chance to join the big boys soon. If Labanc pans out, then the Sharks may have found their sweet spot in the draft, the sixth and seventh rounds.