Dante Fabbro knows that after Nashville’s big P.K. Subban trade this summer, he’s heading into 2019-20 with much higher expectations placed upon him.
Throughout David Poile’s tenure as Predators general manager he’s had to make some tough calls on defencemen, from Ryan Suter, to Shea Weber and Seth Jones. But every time he had to move one of them out, he always had a young defenceman capable of stepping right in and thriving with the opportunity.
Poile found himself in a tough position again this summer — needing to create more cap room — so he traded Subban to the New Jersey Devils just three years after acquiring him. The main reason Poile was confident in making that deal now was because of the development of Fabbro, who joined the NHL team for four regular season games and six playoff games last season after his NCAA career came to a close.
“I probably wouldn’t have made this trade if Dante Fabbro hadn’t signed with the Predators and hadn’t played as well as he did,” Poile said. “That gave me good confidence that … we still could have a good defence and trade somebody like P.K.”
Coming from a GM of an organization that has always had top-tier defensive talent, that’s high praise for Fabbro. The 17th overall pick from 2016 certainly has a level of play to live up to considering the history of Nashville blue liners, including today’s core led by Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm.
All of this puts a lot of pressure on Fabbro to start strong out of the gate, but he isn’t about to let Poile’s comments change his mindset heading into training camp.
“Hearing that definitely helped build my confidence,” Fabbro said at the 2019 NHLPA Rookie Showcase. “But my mentality throughout the summer was that I don’t have a spot and make sure I put my best foot forward and earn everything I get.”
Fabbro’s introduction to the NHL came quickly. He played 16:12 in his debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets and over four regular season games he scored once. He added an assist in the Predators’ six-game, first-round playoff series loss against the Dallas Stars.
He admits there were some nerves ahead of his debut, but credits the coaching staff and his teammates for making the transition as easy as possible. It also helped that he did not have to wait long to play.
“I became comfortable pretty quick but unfortunately it felt way too short,” said Fabbro. “The transition was tough but playing with great players made it easier because you knew you could depend on them.”
What also helped Fabbro was the time he spent with Team Canada at the Spengler Cup because he took what he learned in that environment as a nice little preview of what to expect when he finally signed with Nashville.
During the off-season, the New Westminster, B.C., native made sure to take some time away from hockey and spend it at his cabin in Okanagan, B.C., to recharge and do some other things he doesn’t get to do during the season like play golf and spend time on his boat.
Although Fabbro has a big believer in Poile and showed well in his first taste of NHL action, it’s another challenge entirely to do it over a full season. A big test for anyone coming from the NCAA or other feeder leagues is dealing with the physical grind and demands of a full 82-game slate and the travel that comes with it. Fabbro is used to playing about half as many games as what he could see in 2019-20, but he isn’t too concerned about that, even if there’s a bit of a transition.
“I don’t think adding 40 games to my schedule will have too much of an impact,” he said. “Obviously I’ll feel it, but it’s something I’ll have to get used to if I want to take the next step [in my career].”