BUFFALO -- The bad news for the Bruins: There isn’t a consensus No. 1 defenseman in this year’s crop of draft-eligible players, a major Boston need with Zdeno Chara turning 40 this season.
The good news: It appears there'll be a number of top-4, puck-moving defense prospects available when the Bruins make the 14th overall choice in the first round. They'll probably get a player who will assist them in transforming their roster a couple of years down the road, when the draft class of 2016 starts breaking into the NHL ranks.
One of the mobile, puck-moving defensemen the Bruins have in their sights is New Westminster, British Columbia native Dante Fabbro, who has committed to Boston University next season.
“[Boston] is a cool city. It was definitely one of the reasons why I’m going there, but the big thing is the hockey and the coaching, and the recruits coming in,” said Fabbro, who said he expected to at least stick with the Terriers for a couple of years before turning pro. “I’m just blessed to be going to a great school in an obviously great city.
“I did interview with the Bruins [at last weekend's Draft Combine], but it’s one of those things where you don’t know what they’re thinking. I’m just grateful to come in here, get to work out and get a chance to do all of this. I’ll be getting to school in July to take classes and start workouts, and I’m just looking forward to getting settled in and comfortable there.”
Fabbro’s name has been linked to the Bruins more than most others in the weeks leading up to the draft, even more so than current BU blueliner and fellow first-round prospect Charlie McAvoy. Fabbro, 17, is coming off a junior hockey season where he posted 14 goals and 67 points in 45 games for the Penticton Vees -- one of his teammates was fellow prospect Tyson Jost -- while keeping his college hockey eligibility intact.
Fabbro can move the puck smoothly, has a sturdy frame (6 feet, 184 pounds) ready to take on more size and strength, and boasts the kind of playmaking skills and willingness to work at both ends of the ice that the Bruins covet. His puck-moving abilities, keen hockey instincts and knack for generating offense have drawn comparisons to another cornerstone BU defenseman that the Bruins have been linked to over the last couple of years.
“To me, he reminds me of Kevin Shattenkirk at exactly the same stage in his hockey career prior to his heading to Boston University,” said one veteran NHL talent evaluator. “He can do it all offensively, will be a productive power-play guy at the NHL level and will have enough size to play competitively at both ends of the ice. Fabbro plays with a great pace to his game, and is always looking for opportunities to push the puck. I really like his game.”
The aforementioned qualities are exactly what attracted Boston University to the British Columbia native in the first place, and could give the Terriers a pair of first-round picks on defense next season in the solid McAvoy and the explosive Fabbro.
Fabbro is at least a year or two away from being NHL-ready, and he aims to make even more gains in the skating and strength departments during his time on Commonwealth Avenue. He sounds excited that the Bruins appear interested in him, and his attitude fits right in with the B’s philosophy of tracking down complete players.
“There are a lot of guys: [Drew] Doughty, [Duncan] Keith and [Shea] Weber,” said Fabbro, when asked who he models his game after. “I’m a Ryan McDonagh-kind of guy. I just like to play that two-way style, be a leader and a captain and be that offensive guy while also shutting down top lines.
“Everybody is a great player here [at the Combine], and there’s a reason why they’re here. It’s just one of those things where subtle differences can separate somebody going top-10 from top-20 or top-30. I’m just looking to be myself, and to come in here and make an impression with teams. I’m just grateful to be here. Not a lot of kids get to enjoy this opportunity.”
Fabbro grew up a Canucks fan in BC, but says he doesn’t hold any grudges over the nasty 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Good thing, because if the Bruins select him he'd become a big part of their rebuilding plans going forward.
With a goal, of course, of getting back to the level where you make enemies of opposing fan bases . . . like Vancouver's.