Does it really matter if players are “undersized” anymore? With guys like Brendan Gallagher, Brian Gibbons, and Mats Zuccarello making their mark this season, many teams appear to be moving away from the “bigger is better” mentality and going for skill over brawn. Gallagher might be 5’9” (allegedly), but he plays like he’s much bigger and has zero fear of going into the hard areas. Gibbons is fast enough to be a shorthanded threat on the penalty kill. Zuccarello has great offensive instincts and, in fact, led the New York Rangers in points in the regular season.
Robby Fabbri of the Guelph Storm may be small (he’s 5’10”, 170 lbs) but he shows strong potential in each of those areas. He’s got great natural speed, making him a shorthanded threat. He’s got good hockey sense and reads the ice well, always knowing where he needs to be to make the best play. He doesn’t shy away from board battles, something that would endear him to new Predators coach Peter Laviolette. For a team trying to retool their offensive future, the Predators could do far worse.
Feeling Out Fabbri
Fabbri is one of the best skaters in this draft. He can be all over the ice, backing up his team’s defenders when necessary, and his speed makes him dangerous on the penalty kill. He’s got a great first stride and good edgework, and even when he’s flying around at those high speeds he’s capable of keeping control of the puck.
He also has terrific hockey sense. Fabbri can see all of his options, play-wise, and decide where he needs to be and what he needs to do. Hockey IQ isn’t really something that you can teach — you can impart knowledge, you can hone skill, but some guys have that split-second instinct and some guys don’t. Fabbri does.
He was a vital component of Guelph’s Memorial Cup run, coming in third on the team in playoff scoring despite missing four games with injury, and I would argue that at the very least their run would not have been as dominant had they been lacking Fabbri. Dependability in high-pressure situations is a valuable skill in a player, as is high-end offensive potential. I hate to harp on the same point over and over, but the Predators need a guy who can score. Fabbri will do that.
Small Is a State of Mind
Fabbri battles well, and isn’t afraid to initiate contact despite his size, something that will undoubtedly please Peter Laviolette, who likes his players to be aggressive both with the puck and physically. He will fight along the boards to get the puck, never giving up even though that’s sometimes to his detriment. He could certainly stand to get bigger; his size is his biggest weakness, though of course it isn’t the only thing he needs to work on.
His work ethic is terrific; he’s tenacious and will work hard on every area of the ice. He’s proven to be responsible defensively, something that is promising in an junior player with as strong an offensive game as Fabbri has. His tenacity sometimes keeps him grinding to the point that he gets undisciplined, but that can be fixed with coaching and maturity. His resilience and skill make him a solid choice if the Predators are looking for skilled offensive help with their first round pick this year.
Hannah Stuart is a copywriter by day, hockey writer by night. Covering the Carolina Hurricanes for THW and working on a Masters in Sports Leadership from Duquesne University.