The St. Louis Blues have one of the stronger forward cores in the NHL, especially at center. David Backes has long been the team’s top pivot, while Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera are outstanding in their roles as well. The addition of Kyle Brodziak in July seemingly sealed Robby Fabbri‘s fate for the 2015-16 season.
It seemed all but guaranteed that the 19-year-old would be heading back to the OHL for another year of seasoning. The injury to Patrik Berglund may have changed St. Louis’ plans for the teenager though.
The veteran re-injured his right shoulder while training for the upcoming season. As per the official site of the Blues:
St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that forward Patrik Berglund will undergo surgery on his right shoulder on Friday.
Berglund injured his shoulder training for the upcoming season. He initially dislocated the shoulder during the 2013-14 regular season.
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Rick Wright of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and Berglund will be re-evaluated in four months.
It’s important to note that Berglund will be re-evaluated in four months. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be ready in the winter. The Blues concurrently announced that Scott Gomez would be attending training camp on a professional tryout, leading to speculation that he would be Berglund’s replacement on the NHL roster.
Doug Armstrong spoke with Scott Gomez's agent (Ian Pulver) after Lehtera's surgery about possibility of Gomez coming to #stlblues camp.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) August 27, 2015
As Lou Korac noted on Twitter, Lehtera’s ankle injury initially created an opportunity for Gomez. It was reported by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the surgery would keep Lehtera on the shelf for six to eight weeks. The eight-week mark falls in early October, which means that finding a permanent replacement isn’t necessary.
Berglund’s injury is more serious and will keep him sidelined for at least three months of the season, and possibly more. That leaves two holes at forward for the Blues, and Fabbri might be one strong camp away from making it to the NHL this season.
Bringing Gomez in on a bargain contract might make sense for the Blues. As Greg Wyshynski noted over at Puck Daddy, the 35-year-old has a great attitude and would be a strong addition to the locker room. There are worse players St. Louis could have floating in and out of the lineup as needed.
Gomez shouldn’t be signed at the expense of Fabbri though. The 2014 first-round pick was outstanding during training camp last season, and the Blues were tempted to keep him as an 18-year-old rookie. It seemed likely that a nine-game tryout was the minimum, but he sustained a shoulder injury in the preseason, derailing any chance of that.
Now he has a IIHF Word Junior Championship on his resume and has been an important player for the Guelph Storm since 2012. His 5’10” might make some in the Blues organization nervous about rushing him to the NHL, but Fabbri has a motor that never quits and plays a strong two-way game.
He’s exactly the kind of player that the Blues need to fill in for Berglund, and Fabbri might already be a better finisher. With 80 goals in 147 OHL contests — including 25 goals in 30 games last year — it’s clear that this is a player that can capitalize on his opportunities.
Fabbri is a slippery forward that can slide behind the defense and pick his spots in close. With the Blues, he wouldn’t need to dominate play and score 30 goals. He’d just be asked to play solid minutes on the third or fourth line while chipping in with the occasional goal. Even at his age, that shouldn’t be an issue for Fabbri. The skill is definitely there.
He plays the game at a high pace and could be eased in at around 10 minutes of playing time a night. Berglund averaged 14:35 of ice time last season, so that target would be well within reach for Fabbri.
It’s always risky to play a teenager at the NHL level, especially when they could be getting monster minutes in the OHL. Fabbri was close to being ready a year ago though, and keeping him in the pros just so happens to fill a need that the Blues now have due to injury. It’s a win for the organization and a win for one of the top prospects in St. Louis’ system.