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Kevin Labanc on Being USA Hockey’s Last Pick, Contract Regrets

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Kevin Labanc, San Jose Sharks
Credit: Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire

Kevin Labanc is used to being discounted.

When he was 15, he was the last player picked for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. When he was 18, 170 players were picked ahead of him in the 2014 NHL Draft, until the San Jose Sharks called his name in the sixth round. Last summer, it was Labanc who gave the team a discount, signing a one-year, $1 million dollar contract after a 56-point campaign.

But overlook Labanc at your own peril: “It’s my biggest attribute, it’s my work ethic. That hunger to strive for better, that’s the one thing that kept me going.”

That attitude hasn’t changed after four improbable years in the NHL. According to Jokke Nevalainen, only about eight percent of all sixth-round picks play over 100 NHL games. At 284 games and counting, Labanc has played more games than any fifth, sixth, or seventh-round pick from his draft year.

“Even for me now, it’s never-ending. You have to keep developing yourself,” Labanc said. “Because there’s always somebody else who’s doing it.”

San Jose Hockey Now caught up with Labanc, who’s back in his native Staten Island, this morning. The 24-year-winger talked about being one of the smallest guys in the USA Hockey room as a teenager, his favorite Dale Hawerchuk saying, why the San Jose Sharks season went south, and if he has any regrets about his below-market contract.

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