Coming into the season the folks at EOTP were measured in what they expected from Louis Leblanc. Some of us were thrown by the scouting reports that came out that projected him as a good 3rd line winger at best. None of us expected him to play much time for the Montreal Canadiens this season, much less nearly force his way into the lineup with solid play.
After having out expectations adjusted, most of us were happy with the idea that Leblanc may become a solid top 9 forward who can pot 15-20 goals every year. But should we expect a bit more from Louis? And I don't mean "because he's a 1st round pick" or "because he's French", I mean because his play has been indicative that he might be a gamer.
There are some limitations for Leblanc's game, skating and muscle mass being key ones, but he's a very hard worker and could likely improve those enough to make the comparison I'm about to make a bit more legitimate.
I've been pouring over Behind The Net the last while for a project with Concordia University, and going through those numbers I discovered something interesting; Louis Leblanc has had a very similar 20 year old year to rising star Max Pacioretty.
|Louis Leblanc||Name||Max Pacioretty|
|7.02||On Ice SH%||7.53|
|93.5||On Ice SV%||92.3|
|-0.198||Corsi Rel QoC||0.431|
|50.4||Off Zone Start %||49.5|
|54.6||Off Zone Finish %||47.7|
Looking at AHL production, it's undeniable that Leblanc has outperformed Pacioretty in that league at the same age. Leblanc has more than a full extra shot per game, and scored twice as often. Pacioretty racked up more assists, but he also played with a much more talented Hamilton Bulldogs team in 2008-09. Leblanc on the other hand, had little to no insulation at the AHL level and had to produce on his own on this year's weak Bulldogs club.
In the NHL we can look a little deeper, and things are looking pretty even there with an edge to Pacioretty. Pacioretty was given more ice time and more responsibility with fewer offensive zone starts and a higher quality of competition. Despite these factors Pacioretty produced more shots and more points per 60 minutes than Leblanc has, all this while he was slightly less lucky than Leblanc. Pacioretty also drew more penalties than he took by a factor of 3, while Leblanc put up respectable but not excellent numbers for drawing penalties.
On the other hand, Leblanc has managed a superior Corsi score and a superior Corsi relative to his teammates. There is also the mitigating factor that Leblanc has played on a team that shoots less often at even strength than the team Pacioretty played for in 08-09 (27.6 shots for per 60 in 11-12 vs 28.8 shots for per 60 in 08-09). Leblanc has also been decisively better concerning driving the play forward, finishing in the offensive zone 4.2% more often than he starts there, whereas Pacioretty lost a little ground.
Now to be clear, I don't think Leblanc is going to be Max Pacioretty 2.0, but I believe the signs are there that he can be more than a 3rd liner, and possibly a very effective NHL scorer. There are no guarantees with hockey players and prospects, and no one can say whether Leblanc will progress in the same way Pacioretty has, but all signs are pointing to him having a good chance at doing so.