Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25: #22 Joseph Labate

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The Vancouver Canucks are in the midst of a youth movement. So, let’s take a look at the club’s top youngsters!

If the Vancouver Canucks want to make their ‘rebuild on the fly’ work, they need a strong foundation of young roster players. We all know the Bo Horvats and Ben Huttons of the team, but what’s after that? How are things for the AHL Utica Comets and what can we expect from the Canucks’ next crop of youngsters?

To answer those questions, our staff ranked all signed Vancouver Canucks players under the age of 25. After compiling a list of the top 10 Canucks prospects recently, this is all about who can help today. And guess what, the Canucks only have a total of 26 players under 25 signed and playing in North America right now.

Next up is Utica Comets center Joseph Labate, who is going into his second professional season.

#22 – Joseph Labate

Age: 23
Position: Center
Team: Utica Comets (AHL)
NHL Experience: 0 Games

How He Got Here

The first three players on our list — Evan McEneny, Tom Nilsson and Ashton Sautner — all came to Vancouver as free agents. For Joseph Labate, things worked out differently.

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Labate decided to take it slow when he stayed at the Academy of Holy Angels playing USHS hockey in his 2010-11 draft season. In 25 games, the center had 27 goals and 22 assists for 49 points. Comparing high school players to those in major junior and college isn’t easy, but there is a USHS draft pick who is a good comparison point-wise: 2016 first-round pick Riley Tufte. Tufte played his draft season with Blaine High School, recording 51 points in 21 games.

But, as we know, it’s not all about points, and Labate didn’t convince scouts enough to be picked in the early rounds. Still, the Canucks used their 101st-overall selection in round for to pick up Labate, and the jury is still out. Labate spent the next four years playing for the University of Wisconsin before joining the Utica Comets in 2015.

Where He Is Today

Labate is a 6-foot-4, 190-pound center and while the NHL is getting smaller, faster and more skilled, teams still like big bodies, especially on their bottom lines. It’s not like Labate is nothing but a big body either — he recorded 10 goals and 20 points in 66 games in his AHL rookie season, playing bottom-six minutes. In college, Labate filled out his frame and developed his skill set, turning into a potential NHL player.

In the upcoming season, Labate will have to fight for a spot with the Comets again, as guys like Jayson Megna, Michael Chaput, Brendan Gaunce, Mike Zalewski and Cole Cassels are all center options in Utica. A bottom-six role is realistic, and it suits Labate’s player type very well.

Where He’s Headed

Nobody expects Labate to become a star player and there probably aren’t many who believe he can make the NHL at all. However, Labate has all the tools and, with a lot of hard work, he could certainly become a nice depth player in Vancouver.

Next: Canucks NHL 17 Player Ratings

Labate is a late bloomer who stayed in high school as long as possible and then spent the full four years in college before turning pro. It’s totally okay for him to be behind a player like Zalewski, who’s also 23, in development. That doesn’t mean he can’t be as good as or better than Zalewski one day.

With a college degree, Labate is set for a career after hockey. He can simply grind it out for as long as he wants and see where that takes him. The potential is there, and I think we will see Labate around for at least a few more years — perhaps even in the NHL.