The news that St. Louis Blues left winger Robby Fabbri will miss the entire 2017-18 season due to a knee injury is brutal in both the short-term and the long-term. Had it not been the same left knee that he had surgery on last season, perhaps things wouldn’t have seemed so dire. But that’s a rotten bit of information right there.
And of course, it deprives all of us hockey lovers of getting to see Fabbri use his incredible quickness, skill and tenacity to make things happen for the Blues. What’s most disturbing, is that at 21 years old, Fabbri has now gone through a high-ankle sprain (at the 2015 world juniors), a concussion and now two knee surgeries. The only knock on Fabbri as he rose up the ranks was his durability and that is clearly a great concern now.
My other concern comes in his development curve. Fabbri has been pretty good in the NHL when healthy – he even tied for the lead in team scoring during the 2016 playoffs with Vladimir Tarasenko. But now he’s losing a crucial season, just as he was about to enter his prime years in the league. Say what you will about the freak injuries that doomed Steven Stamkos’ past few seasons, but at least Stamkos is a fully-formed product; if the Tampa Bay captain bounces back for a Rocket Richard campaign this year, would anybody be surprised?
Fabbri, on the other hand, was still on the way up. His top average ice time in the NHL came last year, in his sophomore campaign, but it was just 15:36. On the positive side of the ledger, he was one of the Blues’ best possession players. It would have been great to see him expand on his resume, but now he has to wait – and he can’t even skate during his recovery, since it’s a knee issue.
Oh, and St. Louis is also missing Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund and Zach Sanford up front. Would you like some good news, Blues fans? I assume you would, at this point.
Because for every player that goes down, there is an opportunity for someone else to step up. And the Blues happen to have a lot of very good prospects.
The most high-end player in this category is Tage Thompson, the 2016 first-rounder who wowed Blues brass with his coachability, hands and vision when he joined the team’s AHL affiliate out of college last year. Thompson is also 6-foot-5, which never hurts.
There’s also Oskar Sundqvist, who came over from the Pittsburgh organization in the Ryan Reaves trade. Sundqvist also has great size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds) and is coming off a breakout season in the AHL himself.
And let’s not forget Klim Kostin, the 31st pick overall in 2017 (also acquired in the Reaves trade…geez, that looks bad already, doesn’t it?). He’s been raising eyebrows since rookie camp, followed it up with a slew of points at the Traverse City prospects tournament and has looked solid in the pre-season – the big Russian kid even has a fight under his belt.
Toss in older prospects like Samuel Blais and Wade Megan and St. Louis has some cushion. It’s tough to say that any of these players can replace Fabbri, Steen and Berglund, but if the Thompsons and Kostins of the world can step up, the Blues will be alright until some of the troops come back.