Friday, July 11, 2014

Fabbri has tools to get to NHL

Blues' 2014 first round pick impresses at prospects camp 

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Tim Taylor got to know Blues' 2014 first-round pick Robby Fabbri quite extensively this past week. 

The Blues' director of player development worked extensively with some of the top prospects the Blues offered up at their practice facility, the Ice Zone, inside St. Louis Outlet Mall. 

And what Taylor, a 13-year NHL veteran and two-time Stanley Cup champion, came away with after seeing the Mississauga, Ontario native Fabbri is a player the Blues felt quite comfortable with when they selected him with the 21st pick in Philadelphia last month. 
Robby Fabbri

"There's a reason why we picked him first," Taylor said of the 18-year-old Fabbri, a center who at 5-foot-10, 164 pounds led the Guelph Storm with 87 points in 58 games during the regular season and 28 points in 16 postseason games before being named the OHL playoff MVP. 

"He's got that acceleration, he separates himself instantly away from his man," Taylor added. "He's got good instincts to get the puck to the net, not only shooting the puck but he drives the net hard. Those are all good qualities in an NHL player that we like. He's a difference maker. He's looking to be the difference in the game." 

The Blues have been thirsty for play-making center icemen for a number of years. It's showed in recent seasons as an Achillies' heel during early playoff exits. Although Fabbri, who scored 45 goals and had 42 assists with the Storm last season, isn't quite ready to get to the NHL level, his St. Louis debut this past week has left an a positive impression. 

"I just try to have as much fun as I can," said Fabbri, who helped the Storm to an OHL championship this past season. "Obviously a lot of fans out ... that's great to see. All the guys you're skating with, you just want to stay relaxed and try and do the best you can. 

"Just go hard every drill. You don't want to take a drill off. You're going with different guys, you want to communicate and show them what I can do." 

The player that comes to mind when Taylor thinks of Fabbri is someone who has had a long and prosperous NHL career, a former teammate of Taylor's with the Tampa Bay Lightning: Marty St. Louis. 

Taylor said Fabbri's style is very reminiscent of St. Louis. 

"He shows he has the work ethic like Marty," Taylor said of Fabbri. "I'm very close to Marty and I'm going to talk to Marty about Robby and the fact that Robby is a smaller guy. He's not small, but he's a smaller guy. He goes to hard areas, he's tenacious, he's gritty and he's just going to have to watch himself a little bit and understand that he can't go in those areas at all times. He's going to have to learn and pick and choose. 

"I'll pick Marty's brain at a golf tournament in a couple weeks, so I'll pick his brain about Robby and I'll get them to connect and Robby can pick his brain." 

Scott Walker, owner and coach of the Storm, spoke very highly of Fabbri to the Guelph Mercuty leading up to the NHL Draft. 

"Twenty years from now, (Fabbri) might be the player that sold the most jerseys and the most tickets," Walker, a former NHL player, told the paper. "I really do believe he has the best skill and heart in the draft. 

"Anyone that takes him after (pick No.) 20 is getting the steal of the draft." 

Fabbri credits Walker, whose 16-year NHL career spanned with the Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals. 

"He's such a great coach," Fabbri said of Walker. "And the way our team was this year, it's a reflection on the way he coaches. He was a competitive player and he's a competitive coach and he wants that out of all of us. I like having that in my game, so it's always good to have someone like that pushing you. 

"It's great to hear that, but to me, it's just a number and it's an invitation to camp and you've got to prove everything right off the start and that's what I'm hoping to do." 

Fabbri may be smaller in stature but he's not afraid to play in the tough, gritty areas at the right time. It's why some compare him to a player like St. Louis, who's made a successful career playing the same style and using the same smarts. 

"I think I'm very competitive," Fabbri said. "I go to those dirty areas to get the puck so I can utilize my skill that I have, a quick release in the offensive zone, but to play at the next level, you've got to play in the defensive zone as well. Even though you don't put up numbers in the defensive zone, it's still a huge part." 

Fabbri will go back to Guelph and take with him an abundance of knowledge packed into one week working with Blues staff and coaches. 

"He needs to take with him the understanding of nutrition, strength training and a talk with [Blues coach Ken Hitchcock] on what it takes to be an NHL player," Taylor said. "Not just an NHL player for a day but to have a career. There's a difference." 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues' 2014 Robby Fabbri hitting the weight room at prospects camp.

Leaving a strong first impression was something Fabbri didn't lack in his first visit to St. Louis, and if first impressions are lasting, Fabbri will be in St. Louis permanently in the not-too-distant future. 

"This is when your career starts and you want to start off on the right foot and you want to work as hard as you can every time you get the opportunity to prove what you can do," Fabbri said. "It was fun finally putting on the [Blues] jersey, the fans and everything like that. Such a great organization and you can tell that by the fans out there that it's a great city to play in. 

"Obviously your plans are to make it, but that's a huge jump. I've set my goals high so I'm going to (try) to reach for them. But I see myself (in) a big leadership role in Guelph next year. Hopefully we can put up another run like we did last year." 

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