Pascal Laberge is a scorer, a worker, and one of the most resilient players available in the 2016 NHL Draft.
He’s pushed through more trials and tribulations than most 18-year-old hockey players have to, which has expedited his maturation process and hardened him for the challenge of becoming a professional.
Here’s everything you need to know about this 2016 NHL hopeful.
Age on June 26: 18
Current Team: Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Position: Centre/Right Wing
Weight: 181 pounds
From: Chateauguay, QC.
NHL Central Scouting Rank (North America): 27th
Jeff Marek’s Take: Had horrible family issues to deal with all season long, but was able to rise above them all. Decisive playmaker who isn’t afraid to mix it up.
He’s a puck hound
They can’t all be elite goal scorers and playmakers. That’s not to say Laberge doesn’t have the offensive ability to produce — it’s more that he’s a tenacious player who excels at winning puck battles.
“He’s a tough and spirited two-way forward with a high level of hockey sense,” reads the prospect report at eliteprospects.com. “Hunts for turnovers and causes havoc whenever he’s on the ice. Uses his size well to shield the puck, exert physical force and win board battles.”
Laberge is a grinder in the most complimentary sense of the word.
From back of the class to front
Ranked 31st among North American prospects by NHL Central Scouting at the midway mark of the season, Laberge was one of 40 players invited to play at the CHL top prospects game.
He took MVP honours on the merit of a two-goal, one-assist performance that wowed the scouts in attendance.
“I sure hope this performance will help me,” Laberge told NHL.com.
“Laberge is a high-skilled forward with good hockey sense,” said NHL director of Central Scouting Dan Marr. “He’s a strong skater with an extra gear to pull away with the puck.”
Laberge clearly showed it for Team Orr on that January night.
Overcoming the unthinkable
It’s hard to be a hockey player on track for the professional ranks when real life gets in the way.
Within a span of months, Laberge lost his step-mother to cancer, his father battled prostate cancer and his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“The arena is where I escape,” Laberge told le Journal de Montreal. “I think of hockey more than the tough times. I tell myself that if I perform well on the ice, it’ll take pressure off my family.”
One can imagine the weeks Laberge spent on the sidelines after breaking his hand twice this season were particularly challenging. But he still managed to accumulate 23 goals and 43 assists for 68 points in 56 games with Victoriaville.
He’s movin’ on up
There’s faint hope Laberge will be among the first 30 names called at this year’s draft. If he’s not selected in the first round, he’s sure to go near the top of the second. A move from 31st in the midterm rankings to 28th in the final ones suggests he’s only improved his standing with NHL scouts.