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Barrie Colts winger turns heads with shootout moves

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

Barrie Colts forward Kevin Labanc is one of several players who will be heading home for the holidays during the OHL's eight-day break. Labanc hails from Staten Island, N.Y. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

Barrie Colts forward Kevin Labanc is one of several players who will be heading home for the holidays during the OHL's eight-day break. Labanc hails from Staten Island, N.Y. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

Kevin Labanc has already gotten attention on YouTube thanks to his shootout moves.

Now, he’s hoping a move to the Barrie Colts will get him noticed by National Hockey League scouts as well.

The Staten Island, N.Y., native signed with Barrie this year after having aged out of the American National Team Development Program (U18 NTDP) to improve his game.

“I was going to be playing the USHL (United States Hockey League) for another year and I felt like the competition here in the OHL is going to be a little better,” Labanc said. “My goal is obviously to play in the NHL and for me to accomplish that goal, I feel like this is the best route to go.”

Labanc is a late 1995-born player who was taken by Barrie in the sixth round of the OHL Priority Selection Draft and had initially committed to the University of Notre Dame.

But instead of playing his draft-eligible season for the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, who had acquired his rights, he signed with the Colts and has been going through his first week of an OHL training camp.

“It’s been a great experience,” Labanc said. “Everybody here is competing to play on the team and everyone’s been nice and all.”

Labanc, who had 21 points last year for a program that played against USHL and NCAA opponents, wasn’t a well-known entity coming in.

“He’s a guy that we didn’t know much about,” said Colts assistant coach Todd Miller. “He came from the U.S. Development Program, which is a pretty big program to be in.

“He’s really excited about coming to the OHL and getting his dreams going,” Miller added.

Labanc watched a couple of his former teammates in Connor Chatham (Plymouth) and Michael McCarron (London) sign with OHL clubs and wanted to get in on it as well.

“If they can do it, why can’t I? It’ll be pretty sweet to play against them, too,” Labanc said.

Miller sees Labanc as a top-nine forward who can contribute for the Colts right away.

“He could be anywhere from the second to third line, I’d imagine, with some power-play time,” Miller said. “I think that’s why we got him here.”

Miller was well aware of Labanc’s shootout goal on YouTube, which, through four different videos, has close to 50,000 views.

“He’s got some really good skill and if anyone’s seen videos on him, you can see those shootout skills,” Miller said. “He’s got quite the hands, so he may become valuable for us in the shootout this year.

“People don’t realize how important shootouts are.”

Labanc has prided himself on the stylish and successful one-on-one move.

“Yeah,” said Labanc with a laugh. “I’ve been working on that for a while so I kind of have an idea of what I’m doing.

“I’ve got a video on YouTube so it’s pretty nice to have that up, and hopefully, I can have another one this year.”

He’ll be looking to improve his goal totals in regular game action this year.

“I just (have to) be finishing on the opportunities I get in a game,” Labanc said. “I want to score goals and make plays and do the best I can to help the team. Give me an opportunity and I’ll do the best that I can.”

Miller has already seen a few things in the first week of training camp that he likes in Labanc.

“Just the way he gets open and how hard he is on pucks and how physical he can be,” Miller said of the winger who always seemed to be going to the corner or to the front of the net. “(The OHL) is a different step for him and you see the tools are all there.

“So now, it’s up to us coaching him and getting him onto our systems and he’ll be fine.”

Having spoke to Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk on the phone before arriving, Labanc got an idea of what was expected of him.

“He’s all about the work ethic and compete level, and he wants a player that will push through whatever’s in his way to win the game and compete,” Labanc said. “That fits me and that’s the player I want to be.”

It’s also the reason why he has a much more important goal for this season than just a YouTube video.

“I want to do the best I can for my team,” Labanc said. “I want to make it as far as we can, and hopefully, we can make it to the Memorial Cup.”

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