NASHVILLE -- Dante Fabbro figures to be an important part of the Nashville Predators this season.
The Predators traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils on June 22, in part to create room under the NHL salary cap to sign unrestricted free agent center Matt Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million contract (average annual value $8 million) on July 1, but also because of the emergence of Fabbro, a 21-year-old defenseman prospect selected with the No. 17 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
"I probably would not have made [the Subban] trade if Dante Fabbro hadn't signed with the Predators and hadn't played at the end of the year and hadn't played as well as he did," Nashville general manager David Poile said at the 2019 NHL Draft. "That gave me good confidence that our defense, led by our captain Roman Josi, [Mattias] Ekholm and [Ryan] Ellis, and now with Fabbro being a really good young player, that we could still have a good defense and trade somebody like [Subban]."
Fabbro scored one goal in in four games for the Predators last season after completing his junior season at Boston University, and had one assist in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.
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Though Poile's confidence in him is encouraging, Fabbro said he feels he still has much to prove to become a full-time NHL player.
"That's definitely a cool thing to hear and could definitely boost somebody's confidence," Fabbro said at Predators development camp in June, "but at the same time I've never wanted to take something for granted. I think my mindset … throughout the summer and with training camp coming up here is I don't have a spot yet. I want to earn a spot. And that's kind of my mentality moving forward."
Fabbro seemed to fit in seamlessly with the Predators last season, playing mostly on the third defense pair with Dan Hamhuis.
"For myself, I think I've always considered myself a high-pressure player, a big-situation player," Fabbro said. "For me to go in there, a lot of credit to what the coaching staff has done and has continued to do with me and to all of those players with the Preds. It really goes a long way to welcoming somebody to a team and making somebody feel comfortable.
"It was a lot of fun to be out there, but at the same time, I want to continue to develop and be a player that maybe has a top-four role. But at the same time, I want to earn that spot. That's where all the work has to come in this summer and continue it on into training camp."
Fabbro potentially could be a top-four defenseman for the Predators this season with either Josi or Ekholm. Though that may be a lot to ask for a young defenseman, Fabbro said he's up to the challenge.
"I've put in a lot of work so far over the last couple years to get to where I'm at now," Fabbro said. "If I get that opportunity, I'm going to try and make the best of it."