VOORHEES, N.J. — Pascal Laberge has all the tangibles front office officials treasure in a prospect.
The willowy 6-foot-1 frame, slick and smooth with the puck and a scoring IQ well beyond his age of 18.
A true dream when it comes to offensive hockey.
It’s a package the Flyers liked and drafted this summer in the second round with the 36th overall pick.
But what the Flyers loved about Laberge was beyond the ice — and it's likely a reason they’ve already signed the Canadian to his entry-level contract (see story).
“If you look at Pascal’s story, he’s had a tough year as an individual, especially as a young kid,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week at the conclusion of development camp. “He persevered through. We loved his perseverance.”
Laberge and his family have suffered hardships and heartbreak (see story).
The game was his outlet.
“When I was at the rink, I was not thinking about what happened with my family,” Laberge said. “Thank God I play hockey because that would have been a harder year for me.”
It makes his 2015-16 season at the junior level that more impressive. Playing for Victoriaville of the QMHJL, Laberge recorded 25 goals and 45 assists for 68 points in 56 games.
Over a 10-game scoring streak from Jan. 23-Feb. 19, Laberge racked up 21 points on six goals and 15 assists. Earlier in the season, he tallied a point in nine straight games. He also competed in the World Juniors for the Canada U-18 team, posting a pair of goals and assists in seven games.
“It was a great experience,” Laberge said of the World Juniors. “I improved myself, played defensively. I had more defensive responsibilities, so that was fun, just to learn new things.”
Make no mistake, though, Laberge’s forte is depositing and facilitating the puck.
“Pascal has good size, good speed, he’s got good skills,” Hextall said. “He’s a highly skilled young player.”
He offers exactly what the Flyers needed in their system: forwards with size and playmaking ability. At 175 pounds, he’ll have room and time to become stronger.
“I’m an offensive player, I’ve got a good shot,” Laberge said. “Even if I’m not that heavy, I like to play a physical game. I’m pretty sure in three years, I’ll be bigger and I’ll be able to play that kind of game.”
Laberge said he can play either forward position — he’s opened to both, although wing may be best for both he and the Flyers.
“I think it’s more of both positions,” he said. “I can play center and I can play as a winger. My coach last year thought that I was better as a wing, which I think I did — when I got to wing, I put more points on the board.
“Either position [the Flyers are] going to make me play, I’ll play it.”
Laberge enjoyed his first development camp. He bonded with fellow prospects and saw where he stood among the best before preparing for another junior season.
“It’s pretty fun to play with some older guys and compare yourself to these guys,” he said. “My goal is just to make a good impression and try and go as far as I can.”
His perseverance should only help.