Dylan Labbe has been signed to a three year, entry-level deal with the Minnesota Wild following his elimination from the QMJHL post-season — and Minnesota Wild fans should be excited.
Labbe, selected in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, doesn’t fit the mold of traditional top-round defensive draft prospects — but what he offers is a bit more universal and easy to utilize than some of the blue liners who get selected higher than he did. Described as a ‘gritty’ defender, Labbe is the blue liner that won’t exit his own zone until he’s sure he’s taken care of home ice; although he’s developed into an offensive player over time, the Quebec native prefers to play behind the blue line over making offensive zone entries.
He made his pro debut last season, when he played an eleven-game stretch with the Iowa Wild of the AHL following Shawinigan’s exit from the post-season in a seven game first round series. Over those eleven games, he scored his first pro goal and contributed with two helpers, earning four PIM and finishing the handful of games a -3 — but after doubling his offensive output from the 2013-2014 season this last year, Labbe could be a dark horse threat for the Wild in the future.
The 20-year old blue liner, who stands at six foot two and wowed the crowds at Traverse City this past fall, will report to the Iowa Wild for the remainder of the spring on an ATO; by next fall, when his entry level deal kicks in, he’ll be ready to make his full-time pro debut.
For Wild fans, don’t expect to see Labbe on the NHL roster right away. The team’s blue line depth is still impressive enough that if anything, he’ll earn his spot as a bottom pairing player early on and move his way up the depth chart. After a final season in the QMJHL that saw him sixth in the league in scoring (with a seven game, thirteen point streak to boot), Labbe has developed from a late round sleeper pick into a blue liner that could pan out into a top four defenseman by the time he’s in his mid-twenties. Given that timeline, he could be earning his spot as Ryan Suter is ready to be phased out — in Minnesota, this is a contract that should bring a lot of future excitement.