EVERETT — Gianni Fairbrother’s draft stock is on the rise, and that’s no accident.
The 18-year-old defenseman, who was rated the 85th skater by NHL Central Scouting, was one of the most prepared players after the offseason, according to Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams.
“It’s great to see, because he lives and breathes it,” Williams said. “He came back in the offseason in tip-top shape, one of our strongest players, one of our fastest players. With all the work he puts in, I think you’re starting to see the benefits of it now.”
Fairbrother has enjoyed a nice season offensively, totaling 24 points (six goals and 18 assists) in 43 games. The left-handed shot collected a career-high four assists in a game against Kamloops on Nov. 9.
One of his biggest assets is a howitzer of a slapshot, which can produce goals or lead to advantageous rebounds in front of the net.
“Oh, he can hammer it,” Williams said.
Fairbrother said one of the ways he passes the time over the summer is shooting pucks in his backyard to sharpen his shot.
“I have an inline sheet and a net set up near my shed, so I’m able to rip pucks all day,” Fairbrother said. “It’s something nice to do in the sun, it’s something I enjoy.”
But possibly his biggest impact this season for the Silvertips has been his physicality.
“Not that he’s out looking for anything, but he’s got a tough presence out there,” Williams said. “He’s a strong player, he hits hard. I think a lot of teams probably look at him and say, ‘I’m not throwing it in his corner.’ Because when he comes to hit you, he’s hitting you.”
One of Fairbrother’s biggest assets is as a teammate, according to Williams. The North Vancouver, British Columbia, native is typically the first to come to his teammate’s defense if he’s on the ice during a scrum.
“It’s like, ‘Those are my guys out there’ to him,” Williams said. “In his mind, you shouldn’t be pushing Reece (Vitelli) around. You shouldn’t be pushing Walks (Ian Walker) around. I’m going to make sure my teammates are OK. I think that’s what makes him a great player, a great teammate and a great leader on the team.
“I think his tenacity and his heaviness, it’s one of a kind. I think that’s what a lot of NHL teams see in him, the way he approaches the game.”
Fairbrother said he’s excited to see the professional ranks are noticing him, but it’s nothing he’s getting carried away with.
“It’s definitely nice to see and pretty cool for myself,” Fairbrother said. “But we have a pretty good team here and moving forward in the stretch run and see what we can do in the playoffs.”
Tips using rest as weapon
The days of grueling conditioning sessions and long days skating on the ice are of a bygone era.
It’s something Williams is aware of.
“I’m a big believer of it,” Williams said of ample rest. “I think we do a pretty good job of balancing it out.”
That was on full display early this week. After Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Victoria, the Silvertips had the day off on Monday and took part in solely a team meetings on Tuesday, followed by a team paintball outing, according to Williams.
The extra team bonding and lighter days are possible because of the modern emphasis on health and conditioning with the modern athlete.
“The athletes take care of themselves now,” Williams said. “This generation of athlete, they watch what they eat, they watch how much they sleep, they watch their rest. You see it more and more with all sports.”