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Fabbro still hopes to play for Predators, unlikely to become free agent

Defenseman was first-round pick at 2016 NHL Draft, will return to Boston University for junior season

by Robby Stanley / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Dante Fabbro hopes to add his name to a list of defensemen drafted and developed by the Nashville Predators who are thriving in the NHL.

The Predators would like to see Fabbro, 20, join Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm as a homegrown mainstay on their blue line after selecting him with the No. 17 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The challenge for Nashville is convincing Fabbro to sign a contract before he has the chance to become an unrestricted college free agent by playing two more seasons at Boston University. Fabbro will return for his junior season, but said he doesn't foresee himself becoming a free agent.

The Predators are familiar with this type of situation; they were unable to sign forward Jimmy Vesey, their third-round pick (No. 66) in the 2012 NHL Draft, after he played four seasons at Harvard University. Vesey signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent on Aug. 19, 2016.

"I've always said that I want to play in Nashville and I want to be a Predator," Fabbro said during Predators development camp in June. "I honestly don't think it'll come to that, but a lot of things can happen. My sisters went to school here. I have some roots here. My favorite player growing up was Shea Weber, and obviously Nashville was my favorite team. So I have no reason to want to go somewhere else.

Video: Predators draft D Dante Fabbro No. 17

"With their record of developing defensemen in the League, I think it would definitely be a perfect fit for me. I'm excited to play here. I want to play here. It's definitely going to be a dream come true if I can."

The Predators tried to convince Fabbro (6-foot, 190 pounds) to turn pro earlier this summer, but were unsuccessful. Fabbro had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 38 games for Boston University last season.

"We feel that he's ready to play pro hockey," Predators assistant general manager and director of scouting Jeff Kealty said. "That's a personal decision on his end. On our end of things, we feel that he's ready to be a pro hockey player."

Fabbro is appreciative of how the Predators have managed his situation.

"They've been unbelievable throughout this entire process, nothing but patient," he said. "It's been great. It's honestly impressive, the professionalism they have toward my situation and how they handle things for sure."

With the Predators hoping to sign Ellis to a contract extension and potentially doing the same with Josi next summer, Fabbro will have to compete for playing time if he decides to sign.

"When you turn pro, you're going to have to beat out somebody at some point," Fabbro said. "Obviously, they have the best [defense] corps in the League. I'd be honored to play on that blue line with them. When that time comes, I'm definitely going to try my best to earn a spot on the team and make sure I put myself in the best situation to continue to grow as a player."

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