Fabbro, Pitlick Confident Entering First Preds Rookie Camp Experience
Top Prospects Still Have Plenty to Prove as Preparation for 2019-20 Season Beginsby Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator
Even at the age of 21, there isn't much in the hockey world Dante Fabbro hasn't already experienced.
World Junior Championships, captaining an NCAA club, the Spengler Cup, the IIHF World Championship, the Stanley Cup Playoffs - he's done it all. However, this week will provide a rare first for the fresh-faced blueliner.
Believe it or not, he has never attended Predators Rookie Camp.
Due to his academic schedule at Boston University over the past three years, Fabbro has always been back at school long before the September start date for the annual camp in Nashville. So, although he has 10 total games of NHL experience - four in the regular season, and six more in the playoffs - to his name, this is something brand new.
"It's a new experience, and I'm looking forward to every moment of it," Fabbro said Thursday following the first practice of rookie camp at Centennial Sportsplex. "Just being able to use my experiences from last year, and especially toward the end of the year, I think was a big help for me and my focus throughout the summer. It's something that coming into camp here has helped me a lot, and I've felt pretty comfortable so far."
Just like Fabbro, fellow collegiate-athlete-turned-pro Rem Pitlick is also attending his first rookie camp with the Predators. Selected along with Fabbro in the 2016 NHL Draft, Pitlick also signed with the Preds last spring and made his NHL debut in March.
A former standout forward at the University of Minnesota, Pitlick plans on making the most of his early arrival in Nashville. And just because he'll be on the ice instead of a classroom this weekend, that doesn't mean he won't be improving his intellect plenty in the coming days.
"'Quick to listen.' That's basically my motto in my head right now," Pitlick said. "There's going to be so many things I can learn over the next couple weeks here, so that's the biggest thing for me. Just the cliché: Be the sponge.
"You can never stop learning, and once you think you're done learning, you're usually done. I just want to learn as much as I can right now. There's so many good players here, and I just want to see it all and take it all in."
Video: Rem Pitlick wants to keep learning at camp
Both Fabbro and Pitlick will do more than just soak things up - they figure to play prominent roles for their club in the NHL Prospects Showcase this weekend that will pit them in games against fellow rookies from the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning.
That game experience will lead right into training camp and preseason contests over the next couple of weeks as both skaters attempt to land their spot in the Opening Night lineup.
Predators brass has made it clear they believe Fabbro will find himself on the Nashville blueline come October, and although it may seem as a foregone conclusion to happen, Fabbro is the last person who will be penciling himself in ahead of time.
"Just like anyone else here, I want to earn a spot and not be given one," Fabbro said. "My mentality is work as hard as I can and just be myself out there. At the end of the day, I'll deal with wherever the cards fall."
Pitlick views things similarly, but no matter where he finds himself starting the 2019-20 season, he knows it will be different than what he's been used to at the NCAA ranks.
"It's just a matter of playing your game," Pitlick said. "To an extent, I've gotten here because I play a certain way, and I want to continue to play that way. It's a different level, and there's going to be adjustments to be made. I can't put my finger on it right now - that's just something I need to figure out when I'm on the ice - but it's all part of being a hockey player and adjusting to this new level."
While they might be rookies when it comes to rookie camp, Fabbro and Pitlick have learned their way around these parts, and there's a comfort level that hasn't always been there. It's visible in the way they interact with the media and also how they carry themselves on and off the ice.
Video: Dante Fabbro attends first rookie camp
It's reminiscent of current Preds who have gone through this same process and grown into professional hockey players who succeed at the game's highest level. They'll both likely be at that point someday soon, but for now, they're going to keep embracing the opportunity they've been afforded.
If nothing else, at least they now know where to find a seat.
"I remember my first road trip just getting on the plane and not knowing where to sit," Pitlick recalled fondly. "I was a little bit scared to talk to anyone, but now being able to have that familiarity with people, it's a new level of comfort. But at the same time, you've got to be here to prove something… There's going to be a lot of things to learn here, and that's basically my mindset going in right now - and just play my game."