It’ll be a special night for Kevin Labanc. On Election Day, the 20-year old Staten Island native will make his NHL debut in the nation’s capital when the Sharks visit Washington at 7 PM.
A 2014 sixth round selection who went number 171 overall, the 5-11, 179 pound forward developed well in the Ontario Hockey League where he ripped it up for the Barrie Colts in junior hockey. Over the past two seasons, Labanc totaled 70 goals and 164 assists for 234 points. His 127 points (39-88-127) led the OHL in ’15-16. He added six goals and 20 assists for 26 points in 15 playoff games last Spring for the Colts.
A player who originally began his career in Staten Island before playing for the New Jersey Rockets in the Metropolitan League as a teenager. Eventually, he played for the U.S. National Development Team in Ann Arbor. Originally committed to Notre Dame for collegiate hockey, Labanc changed his mind deciding to play for coach Dale Hawerchuk in the OHL for the Barrie Colts. Regarding the decision, here’s what he told me in an interview on Hockey Prospects:
“It was a tough decision for me and my family to decide whether to go NCAA or take the OHL route. At the end of it all it came down to where I had the best chance of becoming a pro and me and my family thought that playing for Dale [Hawerchuk] a person who played in the NHL knows what it takes to get there and he can help me succeed my goal as a player. Also the OHL is like a mini NHL because of how hard and tough the schedule is we play lots of games and it provide us with a little taste of what the next level is going to be like so you will be that much more ready when you move on.”
Ultimately, he made the right choice. Labanc learned under one of the NHL’s best players and developed into a very good scorer who the Sharks signed along with Barrie teammate Dylan Sadowy. Unfortunately, Sadowy was traded last May to the Red Wings for a 2017 third round pick. So, they won’t get the chance to play together. He has no points in five games for Grand Rapids.
With San Jose actually struggling offensively, they decided to recall him for tonight’s game at the Capitals. In six games playing for San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, he’s off to a quick start leading them in scoring with 10 points (4-6-10). The 10 points are tied for the team lead with 2014 first round pick Nikolay Goldobin.
Interestingly enough, a good New York Ranger fan blogger I follow on Twitter named Melissa has a brother who actually played with Labanc. He was trying to get tickets to see Labanc’s NHL debut in Washington. Hopefully, he gets in and sees his former teammate. How cool would that be.
For Labanc, he gets the chance to fulfill his dream. At age 20! Even on a big night for the nation in what’s been a frustrating and nasty Presidential election which I voted for this morning, you better believe Staten Island will be following Labanc tonight in between the saturated political coverage. Best of luck to him.