It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old.
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2017).
At #15, Dante Fabbro.
In the Nashville Predators’ contemporary history, it’s rare that the team lands a high first-round pick. Aside from Seth Jones in 2013, the organization has been accustomed to picking first in the mid to late first round or even in the second round. As a result, the front office has worked to find good value in those first round picks that aren’t as flashy as the top three (i.e. Kevin Fiala, Ryan Ellis, etc.).
Dante Fabbro is the latest case.
Drafted 17th overall two drafts ago, Fabbro was the subject of many pre-draft reads deeming him “basically an NHL player already,” or “the smartest defenseman in the draft,” and those weren’t necessarily unfounded. Overshadowed in his draft class by the likes of Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Chychrun, it was almost a guarantee the Predators’ would take Fabbro at 17 and that he would carry high expectations going into his freshman season at Boston University.
At times, Fabbro’s potential was questioned by the quality of competition he faced playing his junior hockey in Canada’s Tier II BCHL. Regardless, Fabbro dominated heading into his draft year. In 45 games with the Penticton Vees, he scored 14 goals and 67 points and was a top-20 scorer in the entire league despite being a defenseman.
Much like Cale Makar from this year’s draft class, Fabbro completely outplayed his competition. His adjustment to college hockey, however, may not have exactly lived up to the hype. Fabbro appeared in 36 games for the Boston Terriers and scored 6 goals and 18 points - finishing second on the team in points by a defenseman. Still, Fabbro struggled at times. Although it could only be growing pains, it was clear he was learning throughout the season how to adjust his play against better players.
This, of course, isn’t a bad thing at all. Fabbro was committed to college hockey as the best spot to become a better player long before this past season, and he has time to continue to prove that. Fabbro is a quintessential intelligent player. He won’t burn you with his speed or his shot, but he does move well, shoot a lot, and has exceptional awareness and positioning. He is often described as being able to think three steps ahead of his opponents and having general effectiveness in all areas of the game.
The commentary of the highlight video above mostly speaks for itself. You can’t stress enough how sound of a defenseman Fabbro is. His shot is one of his weakest links, but he is excellent at directing pucks to the net and finding tight shooting and passing lanes. His passing and zone-exit skills are above average as well. Another asset of his game that he might do better than any current Predators’ defenseman is his lateral movement in the offensive zone. His quick feet help to find those lanes to the net that other defenseman just can’t get to quick enough. And, as a right-handed defenseman, Fabbro will be an even hotter commodity.
Fabbro projects as a top 4 defenseman in the NHL. He plays the position just as well as most NHL defensemen while in college. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Fabbro finish his degree before joining the organization, however, if his next two seasons are exceptional in adapting his game, he could make the leap early.
As a college student, Fabbro is unsigned. The Preds maintain his rights until August of 2020 provided he stays in school.
All stats are courtesy of eliteprospects.com.