It’s just about that time, folks. With just one article, we’re closing out our development camp talks, and shifting our focus to the future. That’s right, I said all in one article. And who serves as a better case to help us do this than our pal Pascal Laberge. He had a pretty solid development camp, and he’s primed and all but sure to go pro next season. So that’s past things to talk about, and future things to talk about. We’re set up perfectly here, folks. I couldn’t make up this balance if I tried.
I’m recycling my format from the Farabee article from earlier this week because—no I am not lazy! A girl just loves her structures. Leave me alone.
Anyway, let’s just get into it.
What needs some work?
Unlike with some of the other prospects, it’s hard to pinpoint one really glaring issue that needs fixing to really unlock the rest of his game. For example, could he stand to get a little bigger and stronger? Sure. He even said he’d like to, especially considering this is the year he (most likely) goes pro, and will be facing tougher competition. But, as it stands, he isn’t exactly small and his size isn’t a huge hindrance, but the strength could still use some improving.
Or maybe we could look at one on one defensive coverage, pull out an instance where he got burned by Noah Cates in trying to regain the puck from him in one of the reps, just couldn’t seem to catch him or read his play. And maybe that’s also a small sample, but it’s not nothing.
Maybe we circle back to this one.
What’s there to like?
In short, a lot.
In the drills, he showed us a bit of smooth skating, some physicality, and a strong, pretty accurate shot. And those pieces all came together to help him shine in the three-on-three tournament on the last day of camp. Despite his team being eliminated in the semi-finals and only playing three games, Laberge led all prospects in scoring with five goals, and picked up a hat trick in the second game. And while part of this came from a few very nice setups from his teammates (Morgan Frost, hello), he wasn’t exactly riding their coattails either.
He gave us more of the solid skating, with his quick cuts and a nice backhand pass making him elusive in traffic, and we also saw him doing some playmaking of his own, with one very nice takeaway in particular leading right to the setup for a shot. Where are we going with this? It’s just to say that we have a lot of pieces working and showing potential, he brought a quietly well-rounded game, but no area that really elevated him to the level of “this guy is clearly the best here at this one particular thing.”
So, to circle back…
What needs some work?
It’s sort of vague, but I suppose we could say we need a little but more flash in all of these areas listed above. I know the skill’s there. Now give me more.
We have one more thing to like.
Though we didn’t have one standout in this area—Travis Sanheim may always hold to tightest grip on the teacher’s pet title—Laberge was one of our frontrunners. As one of the older guys at camp, he made note that, while still trying to take everything in and pick up on the new tricks, he was also trying to be something of a leader. So, helping collect pucks and leading drills it was. And that’s kind of neat, too.
Where’s he going?
I mean, probably Allento—okay fine I won’t recycle my bad joke along with the format. Sorry. My bad.
But, in any case, this question of trajectory is one of the more interesting ones with regards to Laberge. If nothing else, he hasn’t been want for narratives in his career to date—after his draft year, it was all about making a good impression on his future team, proving he was worth the pick. And, when that draft+1 year was marred by (the aftereffects) of a pretty nasty concussion, the following season became about finding a way to bounce back from injury.
And now, we don’t really have as clear cut a narrative being imposed on him. And maybe that’s okay.
In talking about this at the close of camp, he didn’t seem too perturbed. No narrative? No problem. When asked if he’d set any particular goals, he kept it pretty open, noting, “turning pro…I just want to make sure I have a first good year, so work hard to make sure that happens. Yeah, just keep working hard.”
Than, maybe the next step is just a continuation of what he sees this camp as—a chance to hone skills and pick up new tricks to put in the toolbox. And, if we want to get a little metaphorical here on this Wednesday, we can say that this is a toolbox already pretty well stocked. We’ve had skills abound presented to us over the course of development camp, and a solid starting point established.
So, wherever he lands next season—with the big club or with the Phantoms—we can feel pretty good about the foundation he’s bringing, and excited to see what builds from it.