With all of the talk of center Jason Spezza coming to St. Louis and the Blues doing a sign-and-trade of forward Patrik Berglund, some forgot that the Blues had a very important pick to make in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The Blues’ only selection in the first round came at No. 21, where they selected Robby Fabbri from the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.
Fabbri is coming to the Blues organization after the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an OHLer. Leading his team to the Rogers Championship, Fabbri won the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as the playoff MVP. He recorded 13 goals and 15 assists in 16 games, including three assists in the Storm’s Game 5 clincher against the North Bay Battalion.
This was a postseason after Fabbri, playing in his second OHL season, posted 45 goals and 87 points in 58 games to finish second on his team in both categories. How was he able to amass these numbers? THW draft analyst Shawn Reznik will tell you that his speed puts the 5-foot-10 forward over the top.
Fabbri is a gamer. While he’s obviously not one of the biggest players on the ice at any given time, his short frame allows for him to be nimble on his skates and blow past defenders with tremendous speed. He has a low center of gravity, which bodes well for his balance and knack for holding onto the puck.
Energetic and shifty, Fabbri is a goal scorer at heart and showed the OHL that he was one of the best this season scoring 45 goals. His production skyrockets from last season as he was given more opportunities on the top line to use his arsenal of moves ranging from his deking, quick release, and positioning.
Fabbri doesn’t disagree with the experts.
“Speed is a big thing,” Fabbri said when asked about his best asset. “I’ll focus on that all summer with my training and I feel like speed is something that needs to be at the next level. There’s always room for improvement on that.”
The Blues’ first-round selection was slated to come after the San Jose Sharks selected at No. 20, but the rival Chicago Blackhawks swooped in and made a trade with the California team that gave Chicago that pick, along with the 179th pick, in exchange for the Blackhawks’ 27th and 62nd picks in the draft. The Blackhawks selected Nick Schmaltz, who was likely on the Blues’ radar since his brother, Jordan, is already Blues property and is currently playing with the University of North Dakota.
Whether Schmaltz was the Blues’ original top choice will remain to be seen. However, Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong emphasized that no matter the situation, the Blues were prepared to make the best pick available at No. 21, regardless of position.
“A lot of times, especially at No. 21, decisions are made for you,” Armstrong said before the draft. “You’ve got to stick to your guns and take the best player available at the time. We’ve had success in doing that in the past so we’re going to continue to do that.”
Enter Fabbri. The crafty forward showed his excitement from the time his name was announced to the minutes later when he was chatting with NHL media.
“(I feel) very special. I don’t think I’ve taken a smile off my face since I got onto that stage. Finally slipping the jersey and the hat on… it felt right.” he said.
Fabbri was vocal in being ready to join the Blues’ system, which emphasizes defensive play and is known to force forwards to play at both ends of the ice.
“Playing in Guelph, the coaching staff harps on the D-zone and how important that is. If you want to play at the next level, you’ve got to play on both sides of the puck. Learning from (head coach Ken Hitchcock) and what he has to tell me is just going to help my game in the defensive end.”
Although Fabbri is not expected to be on the NHL roster next season, he had a message for Blues fans that may be wondering what he thinks about moving to the midwestern city.
“Tell (the fans that) I’m just as excited as they are, if not more,” he said. “I’m excited to start my career with the Blues and work my way into the lineup and try to be a good player for these fans to watch. (I want to be) someone that’s exciting and someone that they enjoy having on their team.”