By Mark Lester (@futureofphilly)
Pascal Laberge’s 2016-17 season is certainly one he would like to forget. The feisty winger from Québec had a rough season following his draft year.
Drafted 36th overall by the Flyers in the 2016 NHL Draft, Laberge saw his point totals plummet this past season. He tallied 32 points in 46 games (0.69 points per game) this season, a significant decline after recording 68 points in 56 games (1.21 points per game) the year prior.
This major drop off in point totals is thanks in large part to a concussion he suffered back on October 15th. The Victoriaville Tigres were hosting the Moncton Wildcats, when Moncton forward Zachary Malatesta crushed Laberge with a vicious hit to the head:
Headshot by Monctons' (QMJHL) Zachary Malatesta on Flyers prospect Pascal Laberge is sickening and revolting. No place in game for this. pic.twitter.com/avWJhopBoY
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) October 16, 2016
After missing well over a month with a concussion, Laberge never seemed to be the same after the hit. He had multiple stretches of consecutive games where he failed to record any points.
Despite his struggles, this season wasn’t all bad for Laberge. The 6-foot-1, 175 lbs forward showcased some of his offensive talent:
Coming to a hockey arena near you, the Pascal Laberge dangle show. pic.twitter.com/Lk6rHn673Y
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) December 17, 2016
Laberge showed off his creativity with this dazzling shootout goal, which was unfortunately disallowed:
Check out amazing shootout goal by Philadelphia 2nd rounder Pascal Laberge with Victoriaville (QMJHL). Also, 1G+1A and 1st Star of game. pic.twitter.com/9xBXVcc8jF
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) February 13, 2017
Laberge played better towards the end of the season, tallying three points in his final three regular season games, and scoring two goals in four playoff games.
Many Flyers fans may be upset that Hextall selected Laberge and passing on dynamic offensive forwards like Alex DeBrincat and Vitalii Abramov. Laberge has similar potential to these players, but has simply not been able to stay healthy. He is a good skater along with great puck skills, but needs to bulk up in order to take that next step.
Will Laberge return to regular form in 2017-18? Only time will tell. Concussions are quite unpredictable and some players are just never the same. Many players may be worried to get hit again and begin playing a more tentative style of hockey.
Assuming he gets off to a good start and produces consistent offence for Victoriaville next season, the 19-year old will have a great shot at cracking Team Canada’s roster at the 2018 World Juniors.
Laberge possesses all the tools to become a top-6 forward at the NHL level, but the 2017-18 campaign will be critical in his development.