“You know you’re getting old when the kid you draft lists his favourite NHL player as Jeff Skinner” laughed Guelph Storm coach Scott Walker, referring to the fact that Skinner was in the OHL just two years ago.
Skinner and Tyler Seguin, another player fresh out of junior were the favourite players of Storm first round pick Robby Fabbri who scored 57 goals for the OHL Cup winning Mississauga Rebels this past season.
From general manager Mike Kelly to head scout Chris McCleary there was nothing but the highest words of praise for the 16-year-old left shot centreman.
The ultimate compliment to his skills was the fact the Storm desperately needed a right shot defenceman. There were only two players that fell into the elite category and one of them, Jacob Middleton, was still there when the Storm picked in the sixth slot, yet they felt they couldn’t pass on Fabbri.
“He is skilled with a whole lot of character and entertainment value” said Kelly. “We felt he was the very, very best player at caring about winning.”
“He is super skilled and does everything at high speed and uses his teammates really well” said McCleary.
That feeling was even echoed in the OHL’s draft guide which said that Fabbri “is the type of player that does whatever it takes to win … the bigger the game the better he plays … plays much bigger than his stature and won’t back down against anyone no matter how big they are.”
Fabbri was at the Sleeman Centre before the draft even started. Surrounded by his family, he was humble and thrilled to be joining a team on the rise. He had no illusions that he would be handed lots of ice time.
“You have to play hard and earn your ice” he said, “I will sit back and learn from the older guys to improve my game.”
Guelph got their right-shot defenceman in the second round in Kyle Locke and it is very likely that only Fabbri and Locke will make the team out of training camp because the Storm have 21 players returning.
“Locke is a superb skater and makes a real good first pass out of the zone” said Kelly of the six foot 190lb defensive defenceman who will be expected to play in the Storm’s top six next season.
Overall Kelly admits he approached this draft differently than last year, hoping to find a couple of diamonds in the late round.
“Last year we drafted 14 or 15 known commodities” said Kelly, “but this year we were more aggressive and speculative in the later rounds.”
He points to players like 14th round pick Max Balison out of Hamilton. As a 5’10” defenceman he may not be all that attractive on paper but after information from former storm players Matt Turek and Ryan Risidore, and the fact his father is 6’5” and mom is close to 5’11”, it made sense to take a chance on him. Olivier Chabot, a 6’ centre from way up north is playing only his second year of rep hockey, yet led his team in scoring; and even Guelph Jr. Storm centre Griffin
Heitshu, taken in the 15th round, fits into the “hopeful” category. He is small at 5’7” but a dynamic player on a team that had F Owen MacDonald and D Patrick Sanvido drafted in the second round to Windsor and London respectively. D Logan Percy, F Patrick Kudla, D Mark Hofford and D Ethan Spaxman were also drafted from that team in the 8th, 11th , 13th and 14th round respectively. Heitshu outscored them all.
Guelph hit a home run last year with Hunter Garlent, Jason Dickinson and Tyler Bertuzzi. With Fabbri and Locke of the York Simcoe Express, they are hoping that they now have a nucleus of young players in place to make some noise in the Western Conference for years to come.
From the Land of Oz…The Storm took goaltender Matthew Mancina in the third round, the highest they have selected a goaltender since Mark McArthur back in 1992…They took a flyer on 6’2” centre Alex Tuch in the 5th round. Kelly will push to get Tuch for this season, but the player has options. He is hoping to be invited to the USA junior hockey program for the next two years but if the skilled centreman is drafted into the NHL he could decide to move to the Storm as an 18-year-old. Two other former players from Western New York did fairly well after playing for the Storm. Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown are now both captains in the NHL…Another interesting American selected is Nolan Stevens of the Los Angeles Junior Kings. He is the son of former NHL player John Stevens. The younger Stevens is also waiting to hear whether he’ll be invited to the US Junior program…The most belligerent player taken by the Storm was Andrew Dodge in the 7th round. He had 31 goals and 110 minutes in penalties in 26 games playing for the Copper Cliff team in northern Ontario.