Fabrizi a big part of Rebels defensive corps in more ways than one
At six-foot-five and 234 pounds, Rebels defenceman Matteo Fabrizi presents quite an obstacle for opposing forwards attempting to find their way to the net.
Fabrizi is not only an intimidating physical presence, but he has an active stick and along with blueline partner Jace Weir has become adept at blocking shots on the penalty kill.
“We’re really good buddies so our chemistry is good on the ice and off the ice,” Fabrizi said Thursday. “It’s really enjoyable playing with him.”
And on the subject of shot blocking . . .
“It’s something the coaches ask of you, so you have to take pride in it. It’s not an easy thing to do but you have to do it in order to have a successful PK.”
Fabrizi, in his second year with the club, has also morphed into somewhat of an offensive threat. With a flick of his wrists, the 17-year-old’s point shot found its way through a crowd and into the back of the net during Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the visiting Victoria Royals.
It was the third goal of the season for the Rebels’ second-round selection out of the Yale Academy in the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft, one more than he tallied in 38 games last winter.
“Last night, with his shot, he got if off fast and got it on net,” said Rebels assistant coach Mike Egener. “He doesn’t have to take a slapshot, he’s got such a hard wrist shot that’s accurate. It’s on the net and it’s heavy.”
While the coaching staff is more than satisfied with how far Fabrizi’s overall game has come this season, they would like to see the St. Albert product use his size more on a consistent basis.
“When he’s physical he’s at his best. We’re just trying to remind him to bring that sort of game every game,” said Egener. “When he’s invested in the game physically he’s involved in it more. We feel that’s when he’s most effective.”
Fabrizi is well aware that he needs to continue to work on that aspect of his game.
“There’s lots of room to keep expanding on that,” he said. “Physical play is important for a guy of my size and it’s something I need to do.”
Fabrizi and Weir have been particularly effective on the penalty kill, Egener noted.
“Matteo has a really good stick before making his hits. He’s good at taking away lanes, his reach is really a positive and his skating has continued to improve,” said Egener. “He’s taken a big role on the PK, made some real big blocks for us. He’s also making better reads and taking pride in that.
“He and Jace have pretty good chemistry working with each other. Jace has taken a big step too. He’s getting out of his comfort zone and playing more physical, and he also has an active stick. He’s taken a big step too on the penalty kill. Both those guys working together . . . he’s shown a willingness to blocks shots too. Give both of those guys credit.”
Central Scouting just released a WHL players to watch (for the 2023 NHL entry draft) list and Kalan Lind was the lone Rebel listed.
With the growth of his game this fall and his key role on a Rebels team that’s stormed out of the gate with an unblemished 11-0-0-0 slate, there’s every chance Fabrizi will see his name on Central Scouting’s mid-season list.
“It’s definitely something you hope for, but it’s something you can’t control,” he said. “You just have to make sure you play good every night and whatever happens, happens.
“I know I’m playing with a lot more confidence this year with still a lot of room to grow and improve. But I’ve taken big steps from last year.”
The Rebels can tie the WHL record for most consecutive wins to start a season Friday when they host the Vancouver Giants, who are 3-5-1-2 heading into Thursday’s game against the host Edmonton Oil Kings.
“I didn’t know we were that close to the record,” said Fabrizi. “It’s not something that we were watching for. We just want to win the next one.”
If the Rebels win Friday, they can set a new record Sunday afternoon when they face the Oil Kings in the provincial capital, their first of nine consecutive road games due to the CFR Finals Rodeo and Agri-Trade taking over the Centrium starting next week.