Kevin Labanc walked into SAP Center with four goals, tied for fifth on the San Jose Sharks. He walked out on Friday night having given the Sharks a 3-2 victory with a pair of goals with sole possession of fifth place on the San Jose leaderboard in goals. Labanc managed that in 21 games, bringing his points per game total to 0.38 — seventh on the Sharks — and his goals per game to 0.29. That’s fifth on the team.
When I first argued for calling up the Sharks sixth rounder from 2014, it was his scoring that held primary appeal. That has held up as Labanc has proven to be a gifted scorer at the NHL level, albeit with an inflated shooting percentage (20 percentage at the time of this writing).
He might not be able to maintain that high level going forward, but Labanc provides a solid possession game with a high ceiling when it comes to scoring. Take a look at how the Sharks played against the Edmonton Oilers last night, with Kevin Labanc included.
Labanc is right around the middle of the pack in possession, which doesn’t pose a problem on a high-octane possession team like the Sharks. They’ve got plenty of great possession to go around, but with many players going through scoring slumps San Jose needed a spark offensively. Labanc has provided that spark.
Since Labanc joined the Sharks he’s earned the trust of head coach Pete DeBoer in a way other San Jose players can only dream of. Labanc got both power play and penalty kill time against Edmonton on Friday night, which means he’s gone through his full initiation as a member of the San Jose Sharks.
Here’s what The Neutral said about Labanc when the Sharks drafted him back in 2014:
With their final pick in the draft, 171st overall, the Sharks picked American winger Kevin Labanc from the OHL's Barrie Colts. Originally committed to Notre Dame this past season, Labanc opted for the major junior route instead and scored 35 points in 65 games for Barrie. He's described as a "speedy, shifty winger [who] plays with a high degree of energy and brings a constant work ethic to every shift. Tenacious on the forecheck and in puck pursuit; keeps his feet moving and forces turnovers with dogged pressure. Above-average puck skills and vision; an effective power-play presence who uses his quickness to exploit open space and work the play to the net."
And here’s what we said when the Sharks signed him back in March:
Labanc is a bit small, at 5'11 and 179 pounds according to his HockeyDB page. His OHL scoring is excellent, but at age 20 it's also to be expected if an NHL career is viable. Labanc will likely head to the Barracuda when the Colts season ends, and he'll be worth keeping an eye on.
San Jose has gotten plenty of value from Labanc already. Now that he’s a regular in the Sharks’ lineup, we’ll see what else he has up his sleeves.