Nashville Predators: Welcome To Smashville, Dante Fabbro

Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators may have just found the piece to complete their Stanley Cup puzzle and all they had to do was wait for him. Dante Fabbro could come into the lineup immediately and provide a stabilizing presence on a bottom pair that needs it.

The Nashville Predators will finally be getting their prize defensive prospect Dante Fabbro into the lineup as the season winds down and as the playoffs begin to kick into gear. They signed him to a 3 year entry-level contract and are sure to play him on their blue line immediately. Fabbro has been one of the best two-way defencemen in the NCAA while at Boston University and he’s hoping to bring that ability to the Predators as soon as possible.

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There is a lot of speculation as to when he will get into the lineup. While it likely won’t be right away, he should warrant a chance to play after a couple of practices and when he does play it will likely be on the third pairing with Matt Irwin. This could help stabilize the third pairing and also insulate the rookie because Nashville will continue to play their top four against the toughest competition.

Where has the third pair struggled?

visual from Sean Tierney, stats from EvolvingHockey

To be blunt, almost everywhere. The Matt IrwinYannick Weber pairing has been fairly inept in almost all facets of the game. They have been unable to perform even to their expected goal rate as the graph above shows. The Predators top 4 defencemen have performed quite well in this aspect, yet the three players that have comprised the bottom pair have all underperformed. The signing of Dan Hamhuis looked like it would help improve that third pair, but the oft injured defencemen has struggled to stay healthy this season again. To this point, the team has gotten little to no production for their third pairing defenders.

Production Concerns 

visual from Sean Tierney, stats from EvolvingHockey

The chart above shows that the Nashville third pairing of Irwin-Weber have not only been unproductive in comparison to the top 4, but they are also among the least productive in the NHL. The Predators coaching staff has noticed their productivity issues, so they are only sparingly used because they can not be relied upon.

Possibly the biggest issue with the third pairing is that they struggle to move the puck up the ice. Both Irwin and Weber have been undeniably ineffective at exiting the zone, controlled or otherwise. The chart from Corey Sznajder’s Public Tableau shows that Weber is again among the NHL’s worst puck movers. Irwin is not represent on this chart, but he is no more adept at breaking out of the defensive zone. The ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone once possession has been gained is possibly the most underrated and important skill that a defencemen can have. In order to avoid scoring chances in your own zone, getting the puck of the zone is a critical.

visual and stats from Corey Sznajder

Fabro’s Playing Style

While Dante Fabbro has yet to play a single NHL game, he looks to be an immediate upgrade. He’s shown to be capable at moving the puck not only out of the defensive zone, but also into the offensive zone. He plays a mature game often making the smart pass that leads to a clean breakout. He’s a player who has the ability to use both his body and his excellent stick to separate the opposing player from the puck and gain possession himself. Plus, he’s an excellent skater who often looks like he’s two steps ahead of the play mentally.

In the offensive zone, he is equipped with a hard, accurate shot. He is able to find shooting lanes and get his shot on net more often than not. A crisp passer who won’t blow you away with low percentage stretch passes but often makes short passes that go unnoticed. While his offensive upside won’t be fully realized in a third pairing role, he does present the ability to create a mismatch with opposing teams third and fourth lines.

Fabro Fills A Gap

Fabbro is able to fill in the inefficiencies that the Nashville Predators defensive third pairing by just allowing them to place someone who can be at least league average in all three zones. This could be the biggest key to the Predators success in the playoffs. The ability to not only defend but also transition the puck forward could be the difference in the Nashville Predators being able to match their third pair against a deep Winnipeg Jets or Vegas Golden Knights team and not have to worry about the teams shot share rates being caved in by allowing a third line to hem their third pairing in the zone as they have most of the season. Dante Fabbro could be the most important add to any team post trade deadline and he will get the chance to prove it soon enough.

For more on the NHL and hockey in general, follow me on Twitter @TheTonyFerrari

All stats and information was referenced from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com, hockeydb.com, eliteprospects.com, Sean Tierney and Corey Sznajder‘s Public Tableau

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

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Author: Tony Ferrari

Born in Ottawa, Ontario and raised in Windsor, Tony has loved hockey his entire life. Growing up as the lone Maple Leafs fan in a household of Red Wings fans, he followed both teams since he was a child. Having been through Toronto’s rebuild as a fan, Tony is ecstatic to be along for the ride and watch the Wings get back to their glory days. Having previously written about the Detroit Lions, Tony looks forward to bringing you content from the hockey world in a series of deep dive articles and analytical points of view that can help you better understand the little things we don’t all notice because they don’t show up on the stats sheet.