Kevin Labanc was only selected at No. 171 in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks and currently holds a P/GP rate of 0.32. Surprisingly, for someone who’s only scored four NHL goals to date, statistics tell us he’s focused more on scoring goals than he is on getting assists. After all, Labanc did lead the Ontario Hockey League in goal scoring last season (39 goals and 127 points in the regular season) with the Barrie Colts and that’s no easy accomplishment. For Labanc, it’s not just about aiming the puck on goal. No, Labanc follows a tried-and-tested formula that’s been etched into his DNA and a statistical analysis can help us see just how much his game evolves around the net.
The Kevin Labanc Progress Report
Labanc had a late start to the 2016-17 season and didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 8, 2016, when the San Jose Sharks played against the Washington Capitals. Labanc’s game has already made quite a few changes between the months of November and December and if we take a look at his stats in the bar/line graph below, we’ll see that his shots on goal (SOG) are strongly affected by his time on ice (TOI).
As you can see in the graph above, Labanc’s ice time generally runs parallel to his shots on goal. With other rookies I’ve analyzed, though, shift length usually tends to rise when time on ice dips and vice versa. With Labanc, though, this is not the case. His shift length doesn’t seem to impact his game, although his time spent on the ice each game averaged 12:43 in his first 19 NHL games played.
After taking a closer look at his on-ice events in November and December, Labanc’s game has changed during December in the following ways:
- No assists yet.
- Slightly fewer shots on goal.
- Scored more goals per shot on goal.
- Significantly fewer missed shots per minute played. In November, Labanc missed a shot on goal every 26:30 but in December, he’s only missed a shot on goal every 54:33.
- Significantly fewer hits per minute played. In November, Labanc made a hit every 26:31 but in December, he only made a hit every 54:33.
- No blocked shots.
- Labanc incurred just as many giveaways (GvA) during December games as he did in November games. This part of his game has not changed at all.
- Significantly increased his takeaways (TkA) per minute played. In November, Labanc incurred a takeaway every 132:33 but in December, he incurs them every 36:22.
- No penalty infraction minutes (PIM) incurred during the month of December.
- Ice time slightly increased.
Describing Labanc’s Play-Per-Period
Labanc averaged the exact same amount of ice time during first and second periods.
- 36% of TOI was spent in first periods.
- 36% of TOI was spent in second periods.
- 27% of TOI was spent in third periods.
- 1% of TOI was spent in overtime.
Labanc also averaged nearly the exact same shift length during first and second periods as well but what he did with his time during these periods was nothing alike.
Period 1: Far From the Net
Labanc incurred an event (not including faceoffs) every 2:49, with 30-percent of events being shots on goal (SOG) and he took a shot on goal every 9:17. Labanc also scored a goal every 6.5 shots on goal.
During first periods, Labanc registered the most amount of shots on goal (SOG) compared to other periods and this suggests he’s focused on scoring during this period more so than in other periods. Forty-two percent of shots on goal occurred during first periods and this is the largest percentage of shots on goal per period of all periods. Furthermore, 46-percent of shots on goal were wrist shots.
Labanc’s priorities during first periods include more than simply putting the puck in the net. Forty-two percent of Labanc’s total shots on goal and missed shots (M/S) were between 26 and 75 feet from the net and exactly half of these occurred during first periods. This tells us Labanc focuses his goal-scoring efforts furthest away from the net during first periods than he does during other periods. As we continue to examine Labanc’s performance in the next periods, you’ll notice that with each new period, he gains closer proximity to the net as he shoots on goal.
Finally, Labanc is also more likely to giveaway the puck during first periods (56-percent of giveaways (GvA) occurred during first periods) and has yet to receive a hit or incur any penalties during the first period as well. My hypothesis is that because his goal-scoring efforts were focused so far away from the net during this period, the opposition has not yet labeled him as a threat.
Period 2: Skilled & Confident
— Kevin Labanc (@Str8ToTheBanc) November 18, 2016
It appears Labanc enters second periods with a confidence boost as the slight majority of his events (not including faceoffs) occurred during second periods (37-percent of total events). Although most of his shots on goal occurred during first periods, 75-percent of goals were scored in the second. Furthermore, Labanc’s four goals to date were scored between 12 and 17 feet away from the net.
Labanc precedes to take a more aggressive stance towards the puck during second periods and has positioned himself closer to the net when taking shots on goal during this period. Eighty percent of total missed shots and shots on goal taken from 16 to 20 feet from the net occurred during second periods. On top of that, 83 percent of points registered occurred during second periods as well. That’s a big majority and it’s too much not draw any correlations from.
Labanc’s First NHL Goal:
In the video above, Labanc executed his first NHL goal using a wrist shot taken from 17 feet away from the net.
Labanc doesn’t receive hits too often but when he does, it’s most likely to happen during second periods. Eighty percent of hit’s received (H/R) occurred during second periods and therefore, Labanc is much more likely to receive a hit during second periods than in any other period.
Gaining Puck Possession
In order to take more shots on goal, Labanc discovers more creative ways to gain possession of the puck and that’s why 50-percent of takeaways (TkA) occurred during second periods. During the Sharks’ Nov. 10 against the Florida Panthers, Labanc incurred a takeaway at 6:22 into the first period and took a backhand shot on goal (33 feet away from the net) one second later. During their Dec. 9 against the Anaheim Ducks, Labanc incurred a takeaway at 8:30 into the second period and took a snapshot on goal (15 feet from the net) 10 seconds later and then scored his third NHL goal. During the Sharks’ Dec. 13 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he also incurred a takeaway at 3:22 into overtime and took a snapshot on goal (nine feet from the net) three seconds later.
Period 3: Close Shooter
During third periods, Labanc is more likely to incur penalty infraction minutes (PIM) as he becomes more physically aggressive. Eighty percent of total penalties received occurred during third periods. Labanc also positioned himself closest to the net to take shots on goal during this period as well. During third periods, he’s least likely to shoot on goal at a distance greater than 36 feet away from the net. Of missed shots and shots on goal between 36 and 75 feet from the net, only one was taken during a third period (at a distance of 39 feet from the net). Likely, as Labanc focuses his goal-scoring efforts closer to the net, he becomes a greater threat to the opposition.
Labanc’s ice time decreased by 23.71-percent during third periods and his average shift length decreased by 16.78 percent. Furthermore, only 28 percent of events occurred during third periods. This supports the idea that the less time Labanc spends on ice, the fewer opportunities he receives to incur events.
Labanc’s shots on goal were also more likely to be blocked during third periods compared to other periods (50-percent of attempted shots blocked (A/B) occurred in third periods). Labanc’s wrist shots may be the biggest contributing factor to this high number of attempted shots blocked (71-percent of attempted shots blocked were wrist shots). Of course, Labanc utilized wrist shots significantly more than any other shot type and so it makes sense that wrist shots were most often blocked. However, the evidence suggests that a faster wrist shot would have decreased Labanc’s number of attempted shots blocked.
Let me explain.
Labanc is very consistent with executing wrist shots each period and he’s good at aiming them too. In fact, three of his four goals were scored using a wrist shot. Again, the more wrist shots he takes, the more likely he is to score with one. That being said, though, Labanc’s ability to execute a slap shot is better because he has yet to miss a slapshot on goal and has only had one blocked to date. Matt Tennyson, a defenseman who currently plays for the Carolina Hurricanes, has also played in 60 games with the San Jose Sharks (between 2012 and 2015). He is the only player who’s been able to block a Laban slap shot.
As mentioned previously, Labanc’s goals have been scored at a distance of 12 to 17 feet from the net. All of Labanc’s slapshots have been executed at a distance of 26 to 40 feet from the net. Although he hasn’t actually scored a goal with a slapshot yet, that could just be because he doesn’t take slapshots very often. Instead, Labanc uses snapshots and slapshots interchangeably. For every slap shot Labanc executed, he took 2.4 wrist shots on goal and exercised snapshots at the exact same rate. However, Labanc has yet to execute a snapshot during the third period.
One of the common advantages of executing a slapshot over a different shot type is the speed the puck hits the net at and that’s why fewer shots were blocked in first and second periods. This faster speed does not hinder Labanc’s shot accuracy but instead makes his shot harder to block. If Labanc were to increase the speed of his wrist shots, he’d likely see a significant decrease in attempted shots blocked. Furthermore, he might even start scoring on some of his slap shots if taken at closer proximity to the net.
The Sharks Have a New Sharp Shooter
To summarize, Labanc’s goal-scoring efforts were focused furthest away from the net during first periods and closest to the net during third periods. Although most of his shots on goal occurred during first periods, 75-percent of goals were scored in second periods and 83-percent of points registered occurred during this period as well.
Kevin Labanc has yet to receive a hit or incur any penalties during the first period. He’s also more likely to giveaway the puck during first periods too. In fact, Labanc doesn’t receive hits too often but when he does, it’s most likely to happen during second periods.
In order for Labanc to take more shots on goal in second periods and still gain closer proximity to the net, he discovers more creative ways to gain possession of the puck and that’s why 50-percent of takeaways (TkA) occurred during second periods.
Labanc’s shots on goal were more likely to be blocked during third periods and his wrist shot may be the biggest contributing factor. Laban’s slap shots are “miss proof” and “block resistant”, so when half of them were reserved for first periods, his number of attempted shots blocked and missed shots in other periods increased by default. Statistics suggest that a faster wrist shot would decrease Labanc’s high number of attempted shots blocked.
During third periods, Labanc is most likely to become physically aggressive and incur penalty infraction minutes (PIM), possibly out of frustration. Considering the Sharks’ greatest nemesis is the Los Angeles Kings and their most effective offensive weapon against them is the power play, Labanc will need to get a good handle on reducing the number of penalties he incurs during third periods because beating the Kings is second on the Sharks’ list of things to do immediately after winning the Stanley Cup.
I’m a Hockey Journalist based out of Barrie, Ontario, a Contributing Writer for The Hockey Writers covering OHL, and NHL prospects with an insatiable thirst for all things LA Kings, and PR gal for Abel Sports Management.