Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fabbri looking to build on rookie camp success

2014 No. 1 pick among headliners at this year's Prospect Camp 

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Robby Fabbri's training camp was going so well for the Blues in 2014, he was deservedly receiving all the headlines as the surprise skater.

However, one awkward fall from an opponent during a preseason game, and it all came to a disappointing halt for the center iceman.

Fabbri, who sustained an upper-body injury after Minnesota Wild defenseman Christian Folin inadvertently fell on him, would not see any more ice time in the preseason, and his improbable journey would not have a storybook ending.

"Being at such a time, for that to happen, it really tests your character," Fabbri said. "I felt like I was getting more comfortable. For something like that to happen, it's tough."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie development coach Ty Conklin (left) offers instruction to 2014
No. 1 pick Robby Fabbri Monday at Prospect Camp at the Ice Zone.

But one year later, the 19-year-old Mississauga, Ontario native is a year older, a year wiser and the goal is a little more clearer as Fabbri and fellow Blues prospects are taking part in a prospect camp at the team practice facility inside St. Louis Outlet Mall.

"I like to set my goals high," said Fabbri, who was the Blues' No. 1 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. "Getting there as soon as possible is one of my goals. I've been here working hard with (Blues strength and conditioning coach) Nelson (Ayotte) and the trainers to make sure I'm ready and to make that possible. Obviously I'd like to (make the team), but it's a big step.

"You always want to get better and improve. When there's room for improvement, that's when you work your hardest."

Fabbri's season was supposed to get better after returning from the upper-body injury. He was a member of Canada at the World Junior Championship, a team filled with so much promise that wound up winning the gold medal. But Fabbri could only do so in street clothes and a walking boot after he sustained a high ankle sprain in a victory against Denmark. 

Fabbri had two goals and four assists and a plus-7 rating in Canada's first four games of the tournament.

"It's something that every kid dreams of playing in," Fabbri said. "I got a little taste of it. Hopefully I can play the whole tournament next year."

Fabbri, who was listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds last season, spent an abbreviated season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League where he had 25 goals and 51 points before joining the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League for the stretch run and playoffs. He had a goal and four points in three regular season games, when Fabbri said he was, "about 90-100 (percent)."

"It was a steppingstone. He goes from the OHL playoffs and then he goes to Chicago and he gets introduced to the last week of the season and then he gets to another level," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said of Fabbri. "He saw that at the AHL level in the playoffs, that extra level. Obviously the NHL's a little higher than that. You keep going up that ladder and hopefully be at a pace that the rest of the players are at at the NHL level."

Fabbri has grown and has added muscle. He said he's at 185 pounds. Being a smaller guy last year trying to make it in the NHL, the Blues have placed higher expectations on their top investment of 2014, and putting on more muscle mass was a necessity. 

"Yeah, I'm getting there," Fabbri said. "I've still got a couple months this summer to get a little stronger and bigger. I've got my mind set on that. So I think the rest of the summer I can get to work on that.

"Nutrition is huge and the way you have to work on the ice and off the ice ... just the mentality of the way an NHL player thinks is huge."

If Fabbri duplicates a second training camp or even performs at a higher level than last season, the Blues are inclined to give him a nine-game tryout at the start of the regular season before deciding whether he stays in the NHL or goes back to the OHL.

"It gets me excited," Fabbri said. "I have something to look forward to and to make sure that I don't lose that opportunity ... to earn it game by game. Going from here to Traverse (City) to (training) camp, you want to want to be the best you can."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Robbi Fabbri (15) played for the Blues in the preseason last year. Here,
he tried to get around a Carolina Hurricanes player at Scottrade Center.

But make no mistake about it, expectations are rising fast. Fabbri's play has dictated the Blues' assessment of him.

"Your first camp, expectations aren't there, but we all saw last year what he did in training camp," Taylor said of Fabbri. "Now our expectations are a little bit higher. Now it's put back on him too that he has to get to that level of work ethic off the ice to produce the on ice results. He's put on some some real good strides here in the early summer and there's a long way to go. We're hoping that he's going to make more strides throughout the summer."

And with the Blues' forward situation somewhat fluid, Fabbri could very well sneak through and give coach Ken Hitchcock another an unexpected option.

"I try not to look into that stuff too much and just worry about myself and get myself ready," Fabbri said. "... I thought I did pretty well (last season), but not well enough to stay, so that gives me something to work for. I just want to day by day try and earn another day. I'm going to do the exact same thing this year."

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