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2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers prospect review: Pascal Laberge

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More rookie talks!

Heather Barry / SB Nation

We’re rolling right on through these prospect reviews, and we’ve arrived back in that sort of murky middle territory of talking about a player who’s already gotten a handful of games under his belt in the AHL but is still technically a rookie and what are we even supposed to do with all of that *deep breath*

Pascal Laberge missed most of the 2018-19 season after undergoing hip surgery that September, but came back for 15 games at the end of the season and showed some definite flash. There was a good amount of optimism heading into what would be his real rookie season, but also some open questions of just what we were going to get, if he could keep the pace he had started with. And some of those questions were answered, some not (because, well, reasons). Let’s get into it.

By the numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM SOG SH%
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM SOG SH%
23 7 3 10 14 38 18.4

So the answer to that first question of whether he would be able to maintain that same scoring clip that he established in his first stretch of games was no, but that was just about expected. He did still make some pretty strong offensive contributions, considering the role he was often asked to play, and that was nice to see. That scoring pace is still a little higher than we might expect to be sustainable (that 18.4 shooting percentage is still a bit high), but a nice improvement to see was him shooting more often—up to an average of 1.65 shots per game from .87 in 2018-19—and that’s an area that we’d like to see him continuing to improve. Because we have seen that Laberge does have strong offensive instincts and a good shot, and it stands to reason that we’ll see some improvements on both the individual and the team level if he turns even more into a volume shooter.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi For% Corsi For% Relative Scoring Chances For% Goals For Goals Against Goals For%
Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi For% Corsi For% Relative Scoring Chances For% Goals For Goals Against Goals For%
188 233 44.66 -4.64 43.2 11 14 44

His overall statistical profile this season, though, has been something of a mixed bag, and these shot impacts are where our feelings start to sour a bit. It’s still a relatively small sample that we’re working with, but we’re still seeing numbers that are between middling to pretty well below the team average, which isn’t great.

We don’t have to necessarily get too doom and gloom about that, as I’ve said before, it’s worth being a bit more forgiving when it comes to the rookies and their shot impacts not being stellar as soon as they hit the AHL (adjustment doesn’t happen overnight, after all). But for Laberge to bring a complete game and be more effective, we will need to see those differentials improve to some degree, so it’s worth keeping an eye on, going forward.

5v5 Neutral Zone Stats

Entry Attempts Entries Controlled Entry% Possession Entry% Exit Attempts Exits Controlled Exit%
Entry Attempts Entries Controlled Entry% Possession Entry% Exit Attempts Exits Controlled Exit%
64 56 37.5 53.57 41 36 66.67

Massive disclaimer before we get too deep into this section that we’re only working with an 11 game sample for these neutral zone numbers, and this is a sample smaller than I would normally give a ton of weight to, so we’re going to be somewhat brief here. The exit numbers are pretty solid, but the entry numbers are somewhat middling, and we’d like to see a bit of improvement therein. They’re somewhat middling, with the Possession Entry% falling a bit below the team average, but the Controlled Entry% above the team average (though below the 48.32 percent average for forwards). There’s room for improvement here, and it’s possible that this happens on its own with a larger sample, maybe some work needs to be done for Laberge to be a little stronger in picking his spots and holding on to the puck. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Three burning questions

1. Did Laberge live up to our expectations this season?

Not totally, but that’s also partially through no fault of his own. There was a lot to like about his end to the 2018-19 season, once he came back from injury, and from the exit interviews following the season it seemed like the coaching staff was in agreement, and it seemed fair to expect that he would be given, at the very least, a more constant role with the team the following season and a chance to really build on that. But instead, he wound up as one of the bubble players bounced back and forth between the Phantoms and the Royals, and this was a real shock to begin with.

But as far as far as his play with the Phantoms, that was just about on par with our expectations. His scoring pace from 2018-19 (a 38.5 shooting percentage, hello) wasn’t going to be sustainable, so we expected that we might see a bit of a dip there as he regressed more towards the mean, and seeing that happen wasn’t much of a shock to the system. We got, this season, a rookie still working through some of the growing pains at the AHL level, but who was still able to give us some flashes and contribute offensively while playing in mostly a depth role. In fact, he also scored one of my favorite goals of the season, so thanks for that, pal.

Okay anyway. It wasn’t a perfect season from Laberge, but we can still be happy about the flashes that we saw as he worked to get adjusted to playing at this level, and that’s just about what you want to see from your rookies. Would it have been nice to see a bit more? Sure, but this certainly wasn’t a bad start.

2. What do we expect from Laberge next season?

Okay, for real this time, we expect that he’ll be given a more constant role with the team and a chance to build on the foundation he’s been working on laying. He seemed to be trending in the right direction down the stretch in his last run of games with the Phantoms, and we can reasonably expect that he’ll be able to continue to build on that next season, as he gets more settled at the AHL level. We don’t expect an offensive explosion or a warp speed jump forward, but there’s a lot of room for him to continue to round out his game, and hopefully he’s given the space to do that. Laberge has become something of a polarizing prospect, but there’s still a lot of promise there.

3. What would we like to see Laberge to improve on?

Really it’s those underlying numbers that we’d like to see improving. Scoring goals is definitely good and fun, but we’d also really like to see him turning into a strong possession driver as well. Certainly we can expect him to get a bit of a boost if the overall team success trends in the right direction, but we’d also like to see some work put in to improve on the individual level. We mentioned rounding out his game in the last section, and turning himself into a stronger play driver is going to be a big piece of that. Given the makeup of this team and how Laberge is projecting as a prospect, he’s not going to be given the role of a purely offensive guy, so he’s going to have to make some tweaks to his game to tighten up the defensive side and help make sure he’s helping his team be in a better position to territoriality when he’s on the ice, and all that will go a long way.