The San Jose Sharks brought back rising forward Kevin Labanc on a modest one-year, $1 million contract in the offseason. The promising young wing is primed to break out in 2019.
The San Jose Sharks pulled off one of the biggest bargain deals of the entire offseason when they re-signed restricted free agent Kevin Labanc to a measly one-year, $1 million contract earlier this month.
SB Nation’s Fear the Fin did an excellent job of breaking down just how staggeringly cheap that this deal was, but let’s just say it was historic in a way that contracts usually are not.
But it wasn’t just the dollar figure that made it such a steal, it was the caliber of player that they were getting in return.
Labanc had his best season as a professional last year playing in his third season with the Sharks. The 23-year-old totaled 56 points scoring 17 goals and 39 assists serving primarily on the team’s third line.
Labanc would be a major part of the reason for San Jose’s victory in Round 1 and would score an absolute beauty of a goal in Game 1 of the team’s second-round matchup against the Colorado Avalanche.
Labanc entered the offensive zone and — just inside the blue line — tucked the puck between the legs of Avalanche star Mikko Rantanen. The 2014 draft pick would then fire a wrister past a screened Philipp Grubauer to give San Jose a 3-2 second-period lead.
The Sharks would go on to take Game 1 and the series before being bounced by the eventual champion St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Finals. But Labanc’s four postseason goals tied for fifth on the team despite him playing mostly on the third line.
Sure Labanc saw some time playing on the second powerplay unit as well, but his playing time was limited because of the top playmakers on the lines ahead of him.
However, that’s likely set to change this upcoming season.
With the departures of Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi, there should be an opening for Labanc to move up and become a top-six forward. And given his steady improvement over the past three seasons, this seems like the right direction for the team to take.
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Labanc is already a very reliable skater with a deceptively quick wrist shot. But perhaps the best quality that he possesses comes with his playmaking ability.
He and Thornton worked so well together last season because they were able to bounce plays off of each other and set one another up for shots. They both had the ability to finish but excelled when playmaking for others.
And that’s what could make him so intriguing as a top-six forward. His playmaking and passing could pair extremely well with some of the Sharks premier scorers on the top two lines.
With another year of development and an increased role, Labanc could be in-line for a huge 2019-20 season. And he’ll be playing with an extra bit of motivation too as he attempts to earn a longer, more financially lucrative contract next offseason.
He may have been a little overshadowed last season, but Kevin Labanc could be the Sharks next breakout star come next season.