Prospect Profile: #14 Joseph LaBate

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One of the main driving forces behind this profile series – aside from striving to provide mid-August analysis that goes beyond debating whether Trevor Linden’s trunks in his Ice Bucket Challenge are short, or too short – is to hopefully become more familiar with prospects that we could potentially one day see wearing Canucks jerseys on our television sets. 

The first handful of guys that come up each year can prove to be a slog, because realistically, the chances that we’ll ever need to really know their names are quite slim. But it’s all part of the process; eventually we reach a point in which the quality of the players discussed rises, and as a result their respective futures become noticeably more promising. 

While we’re starting to reach that inflection point, Joseph LaBate is a name that longtime readers of this blog know all too well by now.  

There’s good reason why LaBate has been on our radar for three solid summers now, and it’s largely due to the tantalizing combination of physical skills he possesses. Sure, being listed at 6’4”, 215 lbs he provides the sort of size down the middle that makes hockey fans salivate, but it’s the legitimate puck skills he has to back that large frame up which make him the intriguing prospect that he is:

Yet still, the fact that his offensive output has been increasing at what can described as a snail’s pace since his Freshman campaign serves as a red flag. While his goal totals have been steadily rising, the overall production has been mitigated by a mirrored dip in assists.

I spoke to Chris Peters of CBS Sports about it, who has his finger firmly on the NCAA circuit’s pulse:

“LaBate played as the No. 3 C for a lot of the year, but his line saw quite a bit of action. They did have a lot of defensive responsibility, but I think the Badgers were using more of a top-nine kind of set up than your typical top-six, bottom-six forward kind of rotation.

With that being said, considering that the guys ahead of him on the depth chart last year have graduated or signed pro deals, Labate figures to make a bigger offensive impact next season, I’d think. He’s probably going to have to be a top-two center and he’s going to have to put up some points. His size and strength are assets and now he’s also got experience on his side. I would not be totally surprised by a breakout season from Labate as a senior. “

These sentiments were echoed by LaBate himself, who told me as much when speaking with him:

“I was asked to play a solid two-way role this
past year and I think I excelled at it. I take great pride in my defensive game
and being able to get the puck back and create offense out of that, using skills to create chances. I also take
pride in the face-off circle and am continuously working on techniques to help
win more draws.”

He went on:

“I was asked to handle a large chunk of key defensive zone draws this year. Being asked to play a more two-way game this past year really helped develop my defensive game and I know that’s a hot commodity in pro hockey. Having to play hard minutes in the defensive zone and then being expected to produce
offensively as well has helped my game tremendously, I think. Many
players can’t handle that style of play, so I’m glad to say that I can.

I was second on my team in shots so – while I relished in honing my defensive game – I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more time in the offensive zone, and being given a chance to produce more. I was behind a large senior class and next year I’ll be able to get the ice time and opportunities that I haven’t been able to enjoy in the past.”

LaBate isn’t wrong, here. The five players who produced more points than him for the Badgers last season have all moved on this summer, and as a Senior he seems primed to receive a significantly larger piece of the pie. Particularly if he continues the shot rate he alluded to from this past year, which at 2.81 shots/game was bordering on elite. 

Ideally he’ll sign within 30 days of graduating next season and get a few games of run down in Utica with the Comets under his belt. He’ll likely need even more seasoning beyond that. There’s unquestionably still a ways to go for LaBate, who’s admittedly just now learning how to use his frame and size as he matures physically. 

But the fact that he gets to do so under the watchful eye of Mike Eaves – who has churned out an astounding number of players that went on to have NHL careers since taking the program over back in ’02-’03 (23, by my count) – leaves reason for optimism that LaBate will continue to progress.

OTHER PROFILES IN THIS SERIES:

  • Mantastic

    I do believe there is a point to be made of a player doing what his coaching staff wants. Wether it is LaBate or Horvat, the coaches are paid to win games not develop the NHL clubs prospects. Next year should be telling with a lot of these prospects getting a solid look in camp and playing time in Utica.

    Gillis said last year youth was going to get a chance but no one really believed him. This year I truly believe if a prospect out plays a vet, then that vet will be shipped off for more draft picks.

  • NMOO, we are at the point where these players have a significant chance to be an impactful player. LaBate has the potential to be an impact player and produced shots at an elite level while being the shutdown centre. That comment was worth making five profiles ago, but not today.

      • Mantastic

        No, it’s silly to say that Labate is the Canucks 15th best prospect based solely on a list on canucksarmy.com.

        It’s also silly to think that projecting how any of the mid-tier Canucks prospects will pan out is anything more than complete guesswork at this point. Some will disappoint and others will surprise.

        • Mantastic

          15th best or 10th best, doesn’t matter, no organization is that deep in their prospect pool to proclaim they have a significant chance to be an impact player

          silly, is calling LaBate a mid-tier prospect.

          i know it’s guess work but Austin clearly said he has a significant chance he WILL be an IMPACT player, is straight up non-sense.

          • Have you ever heard of boom or bust?
            I think the most likely scenario is that LaBate doesn’t play in the NHL for a single game. I do believe there is a significant (albeit small) chance he is. An impact NHLer. Prospect pools don’t work like “1-5 have top line potential, 6-10 have second line potential” etc.
            LaBate has high uncertainty, which pushes him down the list, but he also still has the potential to be a second line forward.

            What makes you sure he won’t be an impact NHLer?

            And it makes no sense to say “chance he could be”, so it’s either “could be” or”chance he will be”. I’m not sure why you took issue with my wording.

          • Mantastic

            my issue with your wording is in the choice of the words significant and impact

            i don’t think you understand the meaning of the word significant. it doesn’t mean a small. here is an example, a victim has obtained a significant injury. do you think that is small injury or a large one

            again, he has a high chance he will become a replacement level player but not an impact one. impact players don’t get ranked that low. i would include any regular NHLer to be an impact player, but LaBate is high probability to be a fringe player at best. there is no boom, with this kind of prospect

      • Mantastic

        That’s not quite true, some organizations with deep prospect pools may well have talent that far down the chain. The Canucks have done good work in restocking some of the cupboard but their nowhere near that status yet, hence the middling prospects being reviewed here. It’s highly unlikely that legitimate NHLers start appearing on this list till at least top ten.

        • Mantastic

          then please name just 1 team that it’s top 10 prospects all have a significant chance at being an impact NHLer.

          prospects from 10-15 have a significant chance they will be a replacement level NHLer, that’s fine but an IMPACT player? I don’t think so.

  • Mantastic

    Good to see the Canucks keep up with the other NHL clubs in the analytics arms race.

    Certainly, there has to be someone else from the ’89 Canucks that could use a job…

  • You know what I propose, out of the blue I must add…… let’s do a “best looking Canucks prospect series” for us ladies! Yes! Forget the skills, the #’s, the done draws…. who’s the best looking! Then the ladies can vote (guys if you want) and we can award the prospect the “Bieksa award for best looking”. Anyone down?

  • Why is there no boom?

    I think we are differing on our understandings of “significant” just as much as on projections of LaBate. Significant doesn’t mean small, but it doesn’t mean large either.
    Pulling numbers out of a hat, I would give LaBate a 10% chance of becoming an everyday middle-six player. To me, that is significant an far above the Archivalds and Zalewski
    He has an elite shot rate, and has been buried beneath a large senior class and he skates well for his tremendous size. What leads to you to think it is “non-sense” that he could become an impact player?

    If he doesn’t take firm hold of a first line, first PP spot this year and break out offensively, his impact-player chance drops to almost zero, but I’m waiting another year before writing him off.

    • Mantastic

      significant based off terrible other prospects, yeah that’s a great bench mark. significant definitely doesn’t mean small. 10% is not significant chance he’ll ever make the show.

      look at the history of players like LaBate and how many have become regular NHLers and cracked 100 games played. again, he has a higher probability of being fringe player, than ever being an impact (not saying it’s impossible, just highly improbable)

      Boom, in Boom or Bust prospects, mean either top 6 forward, top pairing/4 D. replacement level talent should hardly, be classified as Boom.

  • Mantastic

    @Mantastic

    You’re kind of an idiot.

    Significant doesn’t mean “big” or even “not small”. It means noteworthy. As in “statistically significant,” which could be a fraction of a percentage, but large enough to be noteworthy.

    Labate has enough tools and potential to give him a chance to be an impact NHL player. That’s not saying he will, just that he could. And compared to the average prospect, the odds are significantly (notably) in his favour. Again, that’s not saying anything other than he’s not a write off, and if everything works out perfectly for him he could be a player to watch.

    You’re looking for an argument that’s just not there, and you’re making yourself look foolish in the process.

    • Mantastic

      Regardless, LaBate does not have a statistically significant chance of making the NHL, let alone be an impact NHLer, compared to an awful prospect sure but an average prospect? no.

      who the hell compares to the bottom end of the spectrum when making statistical comparisons? any average prospect will have a significant chance of being an impact NHLer is compared to garbage but the chance of even an average prospect to make the NHL is extremely low.

      there are statistical outliers all the time, he could be an impact player or any prospect to be an impact player, but those chances are incredibly small.

      to declare LaBate to have a better than average chance at making the NHL at this point is silly and premature, thus me calling out Austin on his assumption.

  • Basically what Educated is saying. 10% chance to be a 6’4, two way, second/third line impact player is certainly not bad.
    If you would like, I’ll look for ~6’4 players who take an average of ~2.8 shots per game in the NCAA. I think there will be some good players there.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    @Mantastic

    Two things:

    #1 – These rankings are nothing more than opinions. Granted, they’re based on research and analysis, but they’re still just opinions.

    The CA bloggers, after looking at the whole of the Canucks prospects list, have determined that, yes, Joseph Labate does have a significant chance to be an impact NHLer, in their opinion.

    Of course, they’re not alone (that whole ‘research and analysis’ thing). Hockey’s Future has Labate as the Canucks’ 5th best prospect at the center position, with a “conceivable [chance] that Labate could eventually center one of the Canucks’ checking lines” and figures his ceiling tops out at a 2nd or 3rd line center in the NHL.

    What are you basing your opinion on?

    #2 – Define “impact player”. Would a third line center count as an impact player? I’m guessing Austin and the CA blogger would say yes. Personally, I’d agree.

    If those are offensive ideas to you, you don’t have to read the blog.

    • Mantastic

      first off Austin proclaimed he has a significant chance on a post, not the CA bloggers on the blog.

      this is also my opinion, just based of historical averages on NCAA players, late round draft picks and non-high end point producing forward prospects at his age range. Austin has a propensity to give prospects a much higher percentage and outlook for Canuck prospects of making the NHL than any else I have ever read.

      I’ve defined my definition of impact player in previous posts, but i will elaborate; a regular NHLer is an impact player (more than 100 NHL games played), not a replacement level player which includes most 4th liners and some 3rd line wingers (sub 13min players), which Labate has a much higher chance at becoming, than anything of impact.

      if my comments are offensive, you don’t have to read them either…