It’s the moment you have all been waiting for. Right? There has been a lot of chatter since June of 2016 about when Dante Fabbro will finally get to Nashville, and the heralded defender is now here. Boston University’s season ended Friday with an overtime loss to Northeastern in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals.
I can’t predict how much ice time Fabbro will see the rest of the season, and I can’t predict how immediate his impact will be. But he will come to Nashville with as high of a pedigree as one could imagine, so let’s review his career to date.
Nashville officially announced the signing, after much speculation, this morning:
— x – Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 27, 2019
By The Numbers
I’m not certain Fabbro could come to Nashville with a more dense playing history: junior hockey in Canada, three seasons of collegiate play, three World Juniors tournaments, and a Spengler Cup appearance. To top it all off, he’s performed well in all situations.
Fabbro posted career high numbers this season, with seven goals and 33 points in 38 games. He did this on a struggling Terriers team where he played against top competition at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill. He also added in two goals and three points for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup, playing against significantly older competition.
I’ve seen many comparisons to fellow former Terrier Charlie McAvoy, and their collegiate numbers are mildly similar. McAvoy only played two seasons at BU, totaling 25 and 26 points each season. I think McAvoy’s NHL production could be a decent ceiling for Fabbro—roughly 0.5 points per game, but his game really shines through his skating and intelligence.
Fabbro finished tenth among all NCAA defenders this season in scoring, but finishes fourth on that same list in share of offense by contributing directly to 33.3% of Boston’s goals. Ahead of him were Joseph Duszak (41.6%), Adam Fox (41.2%), and Dalton MacAfee (36.3%).
The Eye Test
By now most everyone knows what Fabbro brings to the table, so I want to focus on a few particulars of his offensive and defensive game in this section.
Boston has been a poor defensive team this season, surrendering only 95 goals against mostly due to some really solid goaltending. Part of the defense corps itself has been good but support from their forwards has not. The clip above really interests me; Boston is on the penalty kill and is positioned well. You’ll notice that Fabbro, #17, anticipates the pass to the shooter well and gets an early jump to the shooting lane. It would serve him better to swing his stick into the lane as well, but the cleaned-up rebound here should be blamed on the center, if anyone.
By all accounts, Fabbro is very sound with his positioning in the defensive zone. His stick remains active and he maintains good movement from the crease out to the dots. But he, like anyone, can get caught not moving his feet, like we see above. He’s initially in good position, but is a step too late as the goal scorer drives right to the back door.
Fabbro’s transition game is probably his best asset. I had to dig deep to encapsulate everything I wanted to show; the one above is from the 2015 World Junior A Challenge. Fabbro makes an excellent play to keep the puck in before setting up a good scoring chance. He is an exceptional retriever and immediately returns the puck to a position ripe for a controlled zone entry if there wasn’t a line change happening.
The play above is another example of Fabbro’s intelligence in all three zones. He drops to control a keep-in with incoming pressure, then controls and stick handles the puck before wrapping it perfectly around the boards—evading an onlooking defender—to his teammate who sets up a goal.
Here’s another example of his puck control and confidence. He’s simply an excellent passer with top-notch awareness in most corners of the ice.
And finally, although I don’t anticipate we will see a ton of this in the NHL, Fabbro does have some nice offensive finish. Above he sets up the transition just outside the neutral zone before springing into open ice for a breakaway goal.
Fabbro’s contract is a three-year, entry-level deal with an ELC signing age of 21, meaning the contract cannot slide if Fabbro does not play a minimum number of games this season. A good comparison would be Jordan Greenway’s deal with Minnesota last March: he appeared in only six regular season games for the Wild, but it still cost a whole year on his contract.
The contract carries a maximum cap hit of $925K each season with an average annual value of $1.492 million. Fabbro will earn a $92.5K signing bonus each year and a full Schedule A performance bonus—$850K—in years two and three.
Fabbro will be a restricted free agent upon expiry.