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Healthy Fabbri hopes to make Blues out of camp

by Louie Korac

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Center Robby Fabbri was arguably the St. Louis Blues' most pleasant surprise at training camp last season.

But he sustained an upper-body injury when Minnesota Wild defenseman Christian Folin inadvertently fell on him in a preseason game, and Fabbri's improbable journey did not have a storybook ending.

The goal hasn't changed this summer for the 19-year-old Mississauga, Ontario, native, who participated in Blues development camp last week.

"I like to set my goals high," said Fabbri, who was the Blues' top pick (No. 21) in the 2014 NHL Draft. "Getting there as soon as possible is one of my goals. I've been here working hard with [Blues strength and conditioning coach] Nelson [Ayotte] and the trainers to make sure I'm ready and to make that possible. Obviously I'd like to (make the team), but it's a big step.

"You always want to get better and improve. When there's room for improvement, that's when you work your hardest."

Fabbri's season was supposed to get better after returning from the injury. He won a gold medal with Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship but had to watch in street clothes and a walking boot after he sustained a high-ankle sprain in a victory against Denmark.

Fabbri had two goals, four assists and a plus-7 rating in Canada's first four games of the tournament.

"It's something that every kid dreams of playing in," Fabbri said. "I got a little taste of it. Hopefully I can play the whole tournament next year."

Fabbri, who was listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds for 2014-15, spent an abbreviated season with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. He had 25 goals and 51 points before joining the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League for the stretch run and Calder Cup Playoffs. He had a goal and three assists in three regular-season games.

"It was a stepping-stone. He goes from the OHL playoffs and then he goes to Chicago and he gets introduced to the last week of the season and then he gets to another level," Blues director of player development Tim Taylor said. "He saw that at the AHL level in the playoffs, that extra level. Obviously the NHL's a little higher than that. You keep going up that ladder and hopefully be at a pace that the rest of the players are at the NHL level."

Fabbri has grown and added muscle; he said he's 185 pounds. The Blues have placed higher expectations on their top investment of 2014, and putting on muscle mass was a necessity.

"I'm getting there," Fabbri said. "I've still got a couple months this summer to get a little stronger and bigger. I've got my mind set on that. So I think the rest of the summer I can get to work on that.

"Nutrition is huge, and the way you have to work on the ice and off the ice … just the mentality of the way an NHL player thinks is huge."

If Fabbri duplicates a second training camp or performs at a higher level than last season, the Blues are inclined to give him a nine-game tryout at the start of the regular season before deciding whether he stays in the NHL or goes back to the OHL.

"Your first camp, expectations aren't there, but we all saw last year what he did in training camp," Taylor said. "Now our expectations are a little bit higher. Now it's put back on him too that he has to get to that level of work ethic off the ice to produce the on ice results. He's put on some real good strides here in the early summer and there's a long way to go. We're hoping that he's going to make more strides throughout the summer."

With the Blues' forward situation somewhat fluid, including a trade of T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals, Fabbri could give coach Ken Hitchcock another an unexpected option.

"I try not to look into that stuff too much and just worry about myself and get myself ready," Fabbri said. "… I thought I did pretty well (last season), but not well enough to stay, so that gives me something to work for. I just want to day by day try and earn another day. I'm going to do the exact same thing this year."

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