The St. Louis Blues are quickly closing in on their final roster for the 2014-15 NHL season, but the coaching staff’s toughest decisions still lie ahead. One of the biggest names coming out of camp this year is Robby Fabbri, the Blues 1st round (21st overall) pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft has been making waves with his amazing hockey IQ, and has caught the attention of almost every die-hard Notes fan along the way.
Though Robby Fabbri may very well be a key component to the team’s future, is he ready to crack the roster and play at an NHL level night in and night out? Here are the the pros and cons of Fabbri’s current skill set, which should show fans whether he is ready for an NHL lifestyle yet or not.
Robby Fabbri: A Brief History
Fabbri quickly caught scout’s eyes when he was just 15 years old and playing for the Mississauga Rebels “AAA” team in Ontario. He amassed 95 points (54 G, 41 A) over the 50 game (2011-12) season, which propelled him onto one of the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) most storied teams, the Guelph Storm. Such players as Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jeff O’Neill, Craig Anderson, Manny Malhotra, and Ryan Callahan have all donned the Storm crest in their Junior careers, and all went on to have outstanding professional tenures as well (most of those listed are still in their prime).
While with Guelph, Robby Fabbri was able to capture the spotlight through his creative play-making abilities, and superb scoring touch. Though he started his Major-Junior career off at a slower pace than most would’ve guessed, he was still able to eclipse the 30 point plateau in just a 59 game season, which was a peek into what he could do while playing at a high level.
During the 2013-14 season Fabbri was able to truly settle in to his rhythmic play, and found himself among the year’s top prospects across the globe. His 87 points (45 G, 42 A) over the 58 games he appeared in last season showed his knack for finding open ice, and his ability to get quick passes and shots off to aid the Guelph Storm’s scoring chances every game. This skill set is where we find Fabbri today, but is he actually ready for the transition into the NHL life? Here’s a look at why he could make the roster, and why he may not quite yet.
Why Robby Fabbri Makes the Blues 2014-15 Roster
Coach Ken Hitchcock has been very open with his thoughts about the Blues 1st round draft pick, letting the fans know that he’ll be in camp until he works himself out of a job. The surprising piece of the Fabbri puzzle is that the regular season is just over a week away and Robby is still going strong in camp, and looking more and more like a natural NHL play-maker each and every day.
Hitch on Fabbri: “He’s not missing a beat. He’s not going to go away … He’s a legitimate guy that’s looking for work here right now.”
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 1, 2014
His hockey IQ is on par with last year’s Calder Trophy winner (awarded to the NHL’s best rookie) Nathan MacKinnon, which means that he sees the plays before/as they develop allowing himself the time needed to make last second adjustments with the puck, in the zone, and while back checking. His quick hands are only outdone by his lightning fast feet, and his sniping ability reminds a lot of fans of another budding Blues star, Vladimir Tarasenko. This is why he is so dangerous (in the opposition’s eyes), and why many feel he is ready for the big show now.
A Fabbri-lous Training Camp Could Lead to a Roster Spot
Robby Fabbri was a little rusty at the Prospects Camp in early July, but has truly proven his worth to the organization since taking the ice at Scottrade for the first time in this year’s training camp. He has shown his grit and determination on the ice and his tact off it, in his various pressers (press conferences) which shows he’s nearing NHL readiness. These skill sets also show that he will become a complete player in a short time, but has that time arose, or does his small stature raise cause for big concern?
Why Robby Fabbri Won’t Make the Blues Roster
Though he has been one of the most impressive players in the Blues training camp, Fabbri is still very young (at almost 19 years of age) and has a lot of physical development to go through before he’s truly ready for the NHL. Bodies are bigger, faster, and harder than what he’s used to in the OHL, and the lack of weaknesses up and down each team’s lineup in today’s game won’t give Robby much room for any ‘learning errors’ he may experience due to his age and lack of true pro experience.
His 5 foot 10 inch frame and 170 pound frame just seems so small on the ice next to Blues regulars like Vladimir Tarasenko and TJ Oshie. As his skill is not being brought into question, because Blues fans the world round now know exactly what he brings to the ice each day, fans must focus on what would happen in a worst-case scenario situation to fully evaluate what he would bring to the team this year. If he crumbles after the first head-down yard sale hit against him, we could lose his services indefinitely, and if/when he does return he may not be the same player he was, and may also develop some tentative habits that negatively effect his play and his team’s performance. These are major reasons why a year or two with the Blues’ AHL Affiliate, Chicago Wolves, may be the perfect fit for him now. However due to his age restrictions, if he isn’t a Blue he will be back in Guelph which could stifle his development making a case for him to make the final roster.
Whether or not Robby Fabbri does make the roster remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised to see him assigned back to the Guelph Storm in the immediate future. Though he has the potential to be a true star in a short amount of time, his body needs all the extra time it can get to develop into a rock solid muscle piston primed for the long haul. If Fabbri cracks the roster this year he may find himself on the receiving end of some dirty plays that could delay his development in a big way, which is not in the interest of the organization, considering they have just now seen him begin his NHL journey, and have a lot invested in his development.
With his worth to the organization already proven, keeping him healthy through his development will be something the front office looks to focus on early in his career. Add in the nature of the Blues’ development track (historically slow) and you can see that Fabbri is going to spend some quality time in Guelph, then possibly Chicago, all while patiently waiting to explode on to the NHL scene as early as next year (or this year barring a lot of injuries).
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Mike has covered the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning in depth for The Hockey Writers since 2013. He is also a contributing writer for KSDK News Channel 5, the St. Louis area NBC affiliate, and has been a credentialed media member of the Blues since 2014. Follow him on Twitter @pep30.