As the Barrie Colts navigate their way to the playoffs, they have the confidence to know that they are swimming in the company of a pair of Sharks – league-leading scorer Kevin Labanc and recent acquisition Dylan Sadowy.
Both selected in the 2014 NHL Draft by the San Jose Sharks, the two have combined since the mid-season acquisition of Sadowy to help propel the Colts to the top of the OHL Central Division and within arm’s length of the conference-leading Kingston Frontenacs. And with an 8-2-0-0 record in their past 10 games, the club – and their hard-biting Sharks’ prospects – show no signs of slowing down.
Labanc is a veteran of the Colts and lauded the addition of Sadowy to an already-potent roster.
“He means a lot. He’s a pure goal scorer. He’s out in front of the net taking a beating. He’ll just tip pucks into the net and he’s got a great shot on him,” Labanc said of Sadowy. “Offensively he brings so much to the table. And the kid blocks so many shots as well, he’s unbelievable on the penalty kill. He’s an unbelievable player and a great addition to our team.”
For Sadowy, he said he feels right at home north of the 49th after spending three-and-a-half seasons with the Saginaw Spirit.
“It’s been good. It’s a whole new experience with a whole new team. It’s a completely different experience than with Saginaw was with their game style. I’m happy, and it’s going well so far,” Sadowy explained. “They accepted me 100 per cent. I came here to help build a playoff team and a championship team and I want to do everything possible to help the team. I’ve been performing well so far and I’ve been happy – hopefully I can keep going.”
Labanc currently leads the OHL scoring race with 34 goals and 106 points in 53 games and is on pace to shatter his career-best totals set last season. In 68 games last season, he finished with 31 goals and 76 assists, good for sixth overall in league scoring. He came into this the 2015-16 season with more lofty scoring goals in mind.
“I had a couple of [personal] goals – being first in the league was definitely one of them. But you don’t want to think about it too much during the season – you just want to stay in the moment and just keep playing your game and stick to the structure that [Colts’ head coach] Dale [Hawerchuck is] telling us,” Labanc explained. “You just want to produce, be there for the team, and be a leader. That was my mentality coming into the season. As long as I knew I was doing my job, I knew that everything else would fall into place.”
The Staten Island, NY product was selected in the sixth round, 171st overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft. Ninety picks earlier in that draft, the Sharks selected Labanc’s then-adversary/now-teammate Sadowy in the third round with the 81st pick of the draft. This season, the Colts obtained Sadowy from the Saginaw Spirit, along with Greg DiTomaso, for Rocky Kaura, nine draft picks and two conditional picks.
So far, Barrie has been good to the Brampton, ON native. In 16 games with the Colts, Sadowy has scored 14 goals and added four assists. In 52 total games this season, the 19-year-old has accounted for 34 goals and 18 assists. Sadowy finished last year with 42 goals and 74 points.
Again, Sadowy’s goal production outweighs his assists. But, as he explained two years ago to HF, it’s just a factor of how he plays the game.
“That’s the same here. A lot of my goals have come just standing in front of the net – tips and rebounds,” Sadowy explained. “We’re kind of like a grind line, me and [Justin] Scott and [Roy] Radke – we just work the puck, we’re a bigger line, so a lot of our work is scrums in front of the net, so I just bat them in and they get the assists.”
Sadowy’s strength is something Labanc said he wants to work on. Coming back to the Colts as a 20-year-old, Labanc said that the Sharks indicated they want him to work on some of the more physical parts of the game.
“Yeah, I mean, just get in the gritty areas a little bit and getting into the weight room a bit more, getting ready for pros – just doing all the little things right defensively and offensively,” Labanc said. “That’s going to have a big impact on your professional career and it’s what I’ve got to start doing and what I’m preparing myself to do more of.”
And Labanc said he’s trying to lead by example.
“I definitely feel I’ve taken one of the leadership roles – not vocally, but showing my leadership out on the ice,” he said. “I really want to get the guys going for a big goal, making a good play, and just doing all the little things and bringing that energy to the team.”
It’s paying off for Labanc. In addition to leading the league in scoring, Labanc is tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals with seven. Labanc said that, although he identified leading the league as a personal goal, he is not watching the scoreboard – instead, preferring to let his game produce the results.
“I mean, I didn’t even know that stat to be honest. But I don’t think about stats too much and just go into every night that I’m going to play hard in every situation and leave it all out on the ice,” Labanc said. “It’s been a good season so far. The team’s been doing well. That’s the main goal for us – we want to get first in the Eastern Conference, but if our team’s doing well then everyone’s individual statistics are doing just as well. We just have to keep playing hard.”
Sadowy knows he has been brought aboard to diversify the attack and help take the Colts deep into the OHL playoffs. So far, he has delivered – and he doesn’t expect the pressure of expectations to trip himself or the team up anytime soon.
“You put pressure on yourself and you put pressure on your teammates as well,” Sadowy said. “I think that if everyone does their own role, we’re going to be alright. You don’t look down the road – you just take it game by game.”
Though the change from Saginaw to Barrie has been dramatic, Sadowy said he is enjoying the experience with his new squad.
“It’s a different system, that’s the thing. It’s a whole different type of guys,” Sadowy said. “Here we’re an older team, where in Saginaw we were much younger. Here there’s a lot more freedom to do what you want and that’s the way we go.
“We’re building a championship team here.”
Labanc and Sadowy attended the San Jose Sharks’ camp this summer and Labanc said it was good to have a recognizable face around during the process – even if they weren’t yet teammates.
“I knew him pretty well. We were at camp together, we always saw each other. We were a couple of the OHL guys, so we knew each other and had played against each other,” he said. “It was pretty nice to have a familiar face around going into camp. We’re pretty good friends and it’s pretty sweet that we were both drafted by San Jose.”
And that familiarity helped with Sadowy’s transition to his new club.
“It’s always nice having faces you know when you come to a new team – or a new anything for that matter,” Sadowy said. “When I came here, I knew Labanc, I came across with DiTomaso, and the team welcomed me with open arms.”
As the season winds down, the Colts are battling the Frontenacs for first overall. Every game is important and every point matters.
“I believe there are about 15-16 games left, so we obviously want to finish in first place overall and claim that home ice advantage,” Labanc said. “That’s going to be a big accomplishment for us. We want to get first in the East and set ourselves up for a good playoff position and do what we can to further our success in the playoffs.”
Sadowy said that he too has some things that he would like to work on this year and they all serve to benefit the team.
“Just my puck control, just protecting the puck down low, and not throwing it out blind. Just get on the play, get it deep – the puck’s important, so if you have the puck you’re going to win the game,” Sadowy said. “As always you want to get bigger, faster, stronger. I know I want to improve my speed game because the faster you are, the more pucks you’ll win races to. So you’ll have the puck more often and you’ll be alright.
“Personal goals would obviously be just to keep producing and keep getting points, but at the end of the game it’s the two points that matter. Getting into playoff position is huge – whether you get home ice in the first round, the second, or even the finals – that becomes huge. Coming down the stretch here, every two points matter.”
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