Flyers

Flyers

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sometimes you have to look behind a player's stats or missteps to find out what has been happening in his life.
 
That was the case last fall with Pascal Laberge, an 18-year-old swing forward selected by the Flyers in the second round (No. 36) Saturday during Day 2 of the NHL draft at First Niagara Center (see draft tracker).
 
Last summer, Laberge’s stepmother was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. She died in September. Shortly after her diagnosis, however, Laberge’s father rocked his family again by telling them he had prostate cancer.
 
“My dad is OK now,” Laberge said. “It’s been a hard year for me. I did what I can and played good hockey when I got it cleared it my head my dad would be OK.”
 
His father had his prostate removed last fall.
 
Laberge's training camp and start to the QMJHL season with Victoriaville was poor. Though his season recovered, his agent, Allan Walsh, was concerned NHL clubs might wonder why he had such a poor start.  
 
That’s when Laberge decided to write a story for The Players' Tribune, which appeared in June.
 
“The truth is, it’s not always easy to concentrate on moving and passing the puck when people you love are fighting for their lives,” he wrote.
 
It was cathartic for him.
 
“It [was] more for all the teams to know what I had been through,” he said. “My agent, Allan Walsh, is real dedicated to players. He wanted people to know.”
 
The Flyers knew about him and contacted him first at the NHL combine.
 
“We had a good chat at the combine,” Laberge, who was born in Châteauguay, Quebec, said. “They had good interest in me. I had a good feeling.”
 
NHL Central Scouting ranked him 28th among North American skaters with the possibility of moving up as a late first-round pick. He’s a two-way forward whose strength is on the right wing — something the Flyers needed in this draft. He finished the season with 28 goals and 68 points for the Tigres.
 
“It was really hard,” Laberge said. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t have a good start. It was a tough moment for my family. After that, my coach said if I performed in hockey, my parents would feel good. I just started playing hockey.”
 
Laberge had an enormous entourage present in Buffalo. Mom, dad, brothers, aunts, uncles, girlfriend, etc. When the Flyers announced his name, he jumped into a hug with his dad.
 
“It’s amazing," Laberge said, "you dream about playing in the NHL and to hear that with my family here, it’s an amazing feeling."
 
Scouting reports say he has a reputation as a player who hunts down the puck and plays the game with a physical edge.
 
“I don’t like to compare myself to anyone — I’m more of skilled power forward,” Laberge said. “My offensive aspect of the game, I can make plays and shoot the puck.”
 
He’s already shown tremendous mental tenacity for overcoming tragedy and hardship. The hockey stuff should come easier by comparison.