Drafted by a team that has long featured one of the deepest pools of young defenders in the NHL, Dylan Labbe has always faced an uphill battle to make his claim on a roster spot with the Wild. Making a name for yourself in that situation generally requires flashy numbers, big minutes, and helping your team find success. Labbe's first year in Iowa was anything but that as the team struggled mightily in the standings and Labbe struggled to find his place on the team. However, the 6'2" 200 lb defender still has plenty of upside and will figure reliably into the defensive plans of the Iowa Wild in the coming season.
Labbe has built a name for himself playing a shut down brand of defense, toeing the line against opponents' top forwards and adding grit to his high-profile minutes. His mobility and solid first-pass give him the tools to have offensive upside and add a scoring threat from the back end. However, Labbe was focused on translating the defensive side of his game during his first season in the AHL in 2015-16 and his offensive gifts did not have the opportunity to shine through. Over 54 games in Iowa, Labbe scored 4 goals and 2 assists and has seen his points per game fall from around .5 to .13 in his jump from the QMJHL to the AHL.
This is still roughly the expected path for a 20 year old former 4th round (107 overall) draft pick making the jump to a new league. Looking forward to the new season, Labbe now has a year of experience under his belt and should find more opportunity to establish his presence in the Iowa lineup. As other defenders shuttle back and forth between Iowa and Minnesota, Labbe will have the opportunity to earn more consistent playing time and establish a role for himself on special teams.
Labbe has impressed at prospect development camp in consecutive years, showing off a game that appears more mature than many of his contemporaries. While he may not have the flash of a Mike Reilly, his offensive prowess has been on display with both his passing abilities and shot on display. Labbe appears to be the type of player that needs regular minutes to establish his game and build consistency. Should any trades or injuries occur in Minnesota, Labbe will likely get that chance. His ability to have offensive upside while playing a shutdown game make him the prototype to build an NHL career. However, he will need to continue to earn every minute he can so he can continue to develop his game and show the brass he forecasts as an NHL player.
Looking forward to his second professional year, Labbe has to make some moves offensively to show that his offensive game translates to the AHL. He held back last year while transitioning his defensive game, but has to start to put the pieces together this year. The success he found in Shawinigan of the QMJHL will become moot if he can't demonstrate that his whole game can make the tranisition to the next step up. He should find more opportunity this year, and will need to make the best of each chance he gets.