VANCOUVER, B.C. — A cool, calm and collected Gianni Fairbrother approached one of the seven media podiums in the cavity of Rogers Arena to meet with a robust Montreal media corp, answering each question with poise and aplomb.
The Everett Silvertips defenseman was nabbed 77th overall in the third-round by the Canadiens, prompting a noticeable applause from fans strewn throughout the arena, and the moment, one he’s waited all season for, didn’t overwhelm him.
“Obviously I didn’t really know what to expect, but for me to put on this Montreal jersey, it’s a really special feeling,” Fairbrother said. “I’m really happy with it.”
Fairbrother evolved into a bona fide top-four WHL defenseman, posting 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 64 regular-season games for the Silvetips. His howitzer of a slapshot and evolved puck-moving abilities earned him time on the power play as the season progressed and he was relied upon plenty on the penalty kill.
The Montreal Canadiens got a hell of a player in Gianni Fairbrother. Really grew on me this season. Fairbrother finished the year at No. 51 on my board.
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) June 22, 2019
He’s also been lauded for his physicality and hard-nosed approach to the game, which has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches in the dressing room.
The North Vancouver native said he had an inkling the Canadiens could take him in the spot that they did, but tried to keep his expectations free.
His premonition eventually came true.
— Josh Horton (@JoshHortonEDH) June 22, 2019
“I felt like out of all the teams they probably were the most interested in me, but like I said, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Fairbrother said.
What attracted the Canadiens to Fairbrother? He suspects it’s his “hard-nosed playing style and compete.”
“I’m always hard on the puck and make it difficult for teams on our end,” he said.
Fairbrother, who was joined by a small group of immediate family, said it was a special feeling to be drafted inside the closest NHL rink to where he grew up.
“It’s a really cool feeling for me and my family,” he said.
Fairbrother is the second Silvertips defenseman to be taken high in the draft by the Habs in the last five seasons. Noah Juulsen was taken in the first round, No. 26 overall, by Montreal in the 2015.
The 6-foot, 194-pound defenseman missed a good chunk of his 17-year-old season with a separated shoulder sustained in a fight. Before that, Fairbrother didn’t crack Everett’s roster as a 16-year-old, playing most of 2016-2017 season in midget.
But Fairbrother evolved from an unknown commodity quickly, rocketing up draft boards in 2018-2019. He progressed from a ‘C’-ranked prospect, to the 88th-ranked skater according to NHL Central Scouting to the 50th by their final rankings.
“He’s very deserving of it,” Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said. “He’s faced a little adversity … He just continued to plug away and get better and did a good job of growing and developing the last couple of years.”
The defenseman credited Everett with helping guide him along in his development.
“It’s been huge,” Fairbrother said. “Coaches and management there have been really beneficial for me and my teammates push me. It’s not the best development league in the world for no reason. It’s been huge for me.”
Fairbrother isn’t eligible to play in the American Hockey League, due to an agreement between the CHL and NHL, and barring him making the Canadiens roster next season, he must return to Everett.
“I think with at least two of our guys moving on, there should be an increased role in ice time and what not,” Fairbrother said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge and seeing what we can do down in Everett.”