The Silvertips’ Gianni Fairbrother defends against Portland’s Skyler McKenzie during a game in 2016 in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Silvertips’ Gianni Fairbrother defends against Portland’s Skyler McKenzie during a game in 2016 in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Tips’ Fairbrother awaiting call after climbing NHL draft boards

The defenseman developed into a bona fide top-four blueliner in 2018-2019.

When National Hockey League executives checked in with Everett general manager Garry Davidson to inquire about Gianni Fairbrother, Davidson would describe the Silvertips defenseman as a “throwback player.”

That was not to suggest Fairbrother’s game was slow or antiquated — he’s one of the smoothest and quickest skaters on the team — but rather that he possesses a grit to his game that isn’t as common as it was in generations past.

“He’s a hard-nosed kid and brings that old-school dimension to his game,” Davidson said. “But his overall game has improved immensely. I think he’s certainly worthy of being a draft pick for sure.”

Fairbrother and goaltender Dustin Wolf — two Silvertips in their first year of draft eligibility — are expected to be selected Saturday on the second day of the 2019 NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. Fairbrother was tabbed as the 50th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. Wolf was pegged as the 12th ranked North American goalie.

Bryce Kindopp, a 19-year-old forward who led the Silvertips in goals with 39 this past season, has a decent chance of being selected as well. He finished the season as the 170th-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

Fairbrother’s stock rose significantly in the 2018-2019 Western Hockey League season. The 2000-born blueliner played just 33 games during the 2017-18 WHL season after sustaining a separated shoulder during a fight with Portland’s Reece Newkirk. The injury sidelined him for three months, so he entered the 2018-2019 season as a bit of an unknown.

Fairbrother caught the eyes of NHL scouts and draft pundits alike by posting 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in 64 games for the Silvertips, developing into a bona fide top-four-caliber defenseman and being named Everett’s “most improved player” at the team’s award ceremony.

“Coming back, I just wanted to show everyone I could play a full season and just be as consistent as I can,” Fairbrother said. “It doesn’t matter how well you play for a game here or there, it’s how you play consistently. That’s something I really focused on throughout the season.”

Fairbrother said he devoted his summer to weight training to add muscle to his 6-foot frame and to power skating to improve his gliding ability on the ice.

“That’s something I really knew I wanted to improve myself on, so ever since that I’ve really taken a big focus on the weight room and conditioning and stuff like that,” Fairbrother said.

He also showcased a howitzer of a slap shot, one of the primary reason Fairbrother earned consistent power-play time this past season.

He earned the respect of his contemporaries in the dressing room for his willingness to “stick up for teammates” in chippy, late-game situations.

“I think that’s one of the pluses in his game,” Davidson said. “He has the ability and the know-how and the willingness to stick his nose in and do what it takes. If that means sticking up for teammates, then that’s what he’ll do. … He comes to play in all aspects of the game.”

Fairbrother, who grew up a fan of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and attended games at Rogers Arena, will attend the draft in person with his family by his side.

The Silvertips defenseman entered the season as a mystery and exited it with a chance to be selected in the same rink he frequented as a fan. It’s an experience he’s trying to soak up before it’s over.

“It was obviously my goal … to be in this position going into the year and it’s something I expected for myself,” Fairbrother said. “It’s a different experience and one that not a lot of guys get to go through. I think it’s been a cool experience and I’ve enjoyed it so far.”

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