Pascal Laberge comes in as the 23rd ranked prospect in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by our estimation. The former 2nd overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL draft is an adept playmaker, who can skate well and has the ability to create offence through the use of his varied skill set.
Although he battled injuries this season, Laberge had a fantastic showing at the BMO CHL/NHL Top prospect game and followed up the QMJHL season with a good showing at the U18 in North Dakota.
No matter which team takes the Victoriaville Tigre, they will be adding a great prospect who looks poised to develop into an NHL player.
- Age: 18, 1998-04-09
- Birthplace: Chateauguay, Quebec, Canada
- Frame: 6’1″, 172 lbs.
- Position: C
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: Victoriaville Tigres
- Accomplishments/Awards: Telus Cup Silver Medal (13/14), QMJHL Gold Cup Champion (13/14), 2015/16 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game
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Pascal Laberge is a tough and spirited two-way forward with a high level of hockey sense. Hunts for turnovers and causes havoc whenever he is on the ice. Uses his size well to shield the puck, exert physical force, and win board battles. Has a good set of goal-scorer’s hands, but tends to use them more to pass than anything. All-in-all, an efficient, yet exciting, two-way forward with potential to develop into a playmaking goal scorer.
The former second overall QMJHL draft pick is a highly talented and competitive forward. He brings a solid base of intangibles to the table, shows a good work ethic every shift and doesn’t shy away when the energy level ratchets up a few notches. Laberge is an above-average skater with a very good top gear, which allows him to separate off the rush. He’s a creative playmaker who can dangle and create the occasional highlight-reel moment as well as consistently set his teammates up for scoring chances. He’s not the best defensively, which is concerning as a center, but I see him as a player trending upward.
Pascal Laberge is a player that could go anywhere in the 20 to 40 range but will likely hear his name called on the first day of the NHL Draft. Regarded as a hard working, creative playmaker who is lauded for his ‘intangibles’, Laberge presents an interesting skill set that is very attractive.
He possesses good skating abilities that allow him to create opportunities for himself and his teammates – whether that is through forecheck or transition through the natural zone. He obviously will need to improve on his defensive game to make it at the next level, but that is par for the course with any 18-year-old centre.
Laberge had a slight dip in production through the early parts of the season, but took off after returning from injury on December 10th. From his return to the end of the season, he posted points in 25 of his final 31 games and never went longer than 2 games without hitting the scoresheet. That also included a standout performance at the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects game in late January, where he and top-ranked North American skater Pierre-Luc Dubois stole the show. Here is Laberge’s first goal of the night:
Generally, the Top Prospect Game should be taken with a grain of salt as it’s just one game, but what it can do, is get teams to look at you again later in the season. A standout performance like Laberge with two goals and one assist will leave an impression for scouts to keep an eye on you. Given that Laberge continued his strong play from the remainder of the season, having a good showing in Vancouver helped keep the spotlight on him. Since he suffered two hand injuries earlier in the year, it was good for him to get that spotlight, and then continue his strong play.
Looking at the goal and assist breakdown, we can clearly see that Laberge saw some outbursts in assists throughout the season including a four-game span where he posted 11 assists.
Laberge finished the season with 50 of his 68 points being primary points, or simply 73.5%. He was ranked 5th in points by draft eligible players from the QMJHL behind Pierre-Luc Dubois, Vitalii Abramov, Maxime Fortier and defenceman Samuel Girard. However, because the Chateauguay native missed some games through the season with various injuries, his 1.214 points/per game was ranked third behind only Dubois and Abramov. His 3.3 shots/PG was the lowest amongst these forwards, but what is promising is that he posted a very reasonable 12.4 S%, whereas Dubois and Abramov hovered around 17.0%.
The notion that he likes to defer to his wingers is likely overstated, as the 3.3 shots/PG isn’t far behind his counterparts. It’s simply that when he did pass, it was putting his teammates in a prime position to score, thus more noticeable. Quite simply, saying Laberge is a playmaker isn’t fair, because based on his shot and goal totals, he isn’t avoiding taking shots to pass off. If he can work on his shot, he may see an improvement in his shooting percentage that will lead to further points.
When looking at the pGPS for Laberge, a respectable 34.2% went onto becoming NHL regulars, which is a seems to be the benchmark for this point in the draft. What is extremely promising, though, is that his matches went onto posting an average of 0.60 PPG at the NHL level.
Teams will be attracted to Laberge for his playmaking and skating abilities, which is the correct thing to focus on, as he is proficient in both of those aspects in his game. But I find his goal scoring abilities to be intriguing as well, if he continues to work on that, as well as his defensive side of the game, he may round out his game fully and become a legitimate prospect.
For teams in the latter half of the first round, you have two options, you either want to swing for the fences with a player who has the skillset to boom. There is more risk to this, as it may not translate to the NHL level. Alternatively, you would want to go down the ‘safe’ road and select a player who has a few skills that already project to the NHL level, and then hope to round out their game from there.
Laberge feels like a mix of both, he possesses the NHL skating and playmaking that makes him a safe pick, but also has the other skills near the surface that could make him a boom. Thus it’s clear why a player like Laberge will likely be gone before the first day of the draft is done.