Kevin Labanc, Right Wing
The Staten Island kid heads into the season coming off a capricious 2017 – 2018 campaign. At various points of last season Labanc played very well. Over the course of the year he scored 40 points, with 11 goals. Labanc’s ice time was maximized while he was inside the opposing teams zone. He used his skate speed and positioning to create shooting lanes, while using his quick wrist shot to create rebounds and deflections.
With Kevin Labanc on the ice the Sharks controlled much of the play, they sustained a 55.5 Corsi rate at even strength during the 2017 – 2018 season. Labanc’s presence in the offensive zone was needed on a team that lacked scoring depth after the departure of Patrick Marleau last season.
Overall, Labanc’s offense was most potent on the Power Play. His right handed shot was extremely useful on a Sharks roster littered with powerful left handed shooters. He racked up 17 points on special teams, while spending time with both the first and second unit.
During the 2016 – 2017 campaign the Sharks only had 4 players with more than 1 goal on Special Teams. Labanc definitely stepped up and contributed offensively, something that the Sharks desperately needed him to do going into last season.
Labanc, however, has had his struggles. He is known for missing defensive assignments and gets bullied off the puck by bigger stronger players. Head Coach Pete DeBoer shelters Labanc by giving him mostly offensive zone starts. He started in the offensive zone 55.5% of the time, which is pretty drastic considering that the Sharks like to cycle all four of their forward lines. By using Micah Blake McCurdys (@IneffectiveMath) zone usage Hockeyviz tool one can see that DeBoer usage of Labanc over the course of the season.
Another important stat that really highlights Labanc’s defensive inefficiencies is that the teams on ice save percentage dips nearly 2 points while Labanc was playing. The Banker will need to tighten up defensively in order for him to earn more favorable ice time from Pete DeBoer.
The 22-year-old might be a liability at times, but he has earned his spot in this Sharks lineup who lacks impact right handed shots. This season Kevin Labanc is looking to elevate his game, especially coming into a contract year with his entry level expiring this summer.