If you’re looking for a flashy, light-up-the-scoreboard defenseman, Brock Faber might not be your man quite yet.
“I definitely take pride in the defensive side of my game over the offensive side of my game,” the Gophers freshman said.
If you want to see a finished product on the blue line, you might have to wait a while.
“I’m excited to add more offensive efficiency in my game these next few years,” the Maple Grove native said.
However, if you want a puck-moving, shutdown defenseman, Faber could be your guy. And when the names are called for the NHL draft on Tuesday and Wednesday, Faber’s will be one of them. He’s the 44th-ranked North American skater in the NHL Central Scouting Service’s final 2020 ratings. That puts him as a likely second-day pick, possibly in the second or third round.
Faber’s development at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Mich., the past two years has impressed Judd Brackett, the Wild’s director of amateur scouting.
“He certainly is going to go in a highly coveted spot in this draft and continue to develop in college,” Brackett said. “I’ve enjoyed his game for the last two years with the national program. He’s a competitor always, and that’s going to be the hallmark of his game.”
Faber is one of four Minnesotans in the top 100 of the Central Scouting rankings. He joins a pair of Minnesota Duluth freshmen — defenseman Wyatt Kaiser of Andover at No. 37 and center Blake Biondi of Hermantown at No. 64 — plus Rosemount senior defenseman Jake Ratzlaff at No. 90. Ratzlaff has verbally committed to the Gophers but hasn’t decided if he’ll play hockey or football in college. He has football offers from the Gophers and Wisconsin.
Taking his talents to U
Faber brings a responsible approach to his game, according to Nick Fohr, his position coach with the U.S. Under-17 and Under-18 teams.
“He really prides himself on the ability to defend. He’s one of the top guys I’ve had, if not the top guy, at defending the rush,” said Fohr, who’s been with the NTDP for nine years. “… A lot of that comes back to his ability to skate. He’s such a good skater.”
That skating ability, COVID-19 permitting, will be on display at 3M Arena at Mariucci this season, where Faber and fellow freshmen Mike Koster and Carl Fish will join a young, talented blue line that features sophomores Ryan Johnson and Jackson LaCombe, who were first- and second-round draft picks, respectively, last year. Faber is excited to learn from that duo.
“Those guys were pretty high picks, and that’s for a reason,” Faber said. “It’s because of how hard they work, how focused they are day in and day out on bettering themselves. That’s definitely something to learn from, knowing how you need to conduct yourself if you want to be on that level.”
Faber also expects to improve under Gophers assistant coach Garrett Raboin, who handles the defensemen, and longtime NHL blue-liner Paul Martin, who’s an undergraduate assistant coach.
“Paul Martin and his career, it’s going to be awesome learning from him,” Faber said. “And Rabs, he’s coached so many amazing players, too. I’m excited to soak it all in and take this opportunity and hopefully run with it.”
Honing his skills
During the past two years with the national program, Faber had three goals and nine assists in 46 games with the Under-18 team in 2019-20 and three goals and 12 assists in 56 games with the Under-17 team the year before. “His offensive game is not where he wants it to be, but he’s got the ability,” Fohr said. “… He understands that’s something he needs to focus on. He actually came a long way with that in his two years with us.”
Faber’s defensive partner for most of the time at the national program was Tyler Kleven, No. 42 among North American skaters. Also on the U.S. blue line was Jake Sanderson, who’s No. 4 in the rankings. Nine of the top 50 North American skaters in the rankings were members of the U.S. Under-18 team. Last year, seven of the program’s players were among the top 15 NHL picks and one more also went in the first round.
Both Sanderson and Kleven are freshmen at North Dakota, and Fohr believes Faber acquitted himself well in comparison.
“Brock had a great two-year process with us and really grew,” Fohr said. “... I always felt safe calling Brock’s number. I felt I could look away and coach some of the other guys on the bench when he was on the ice because I felt safe.”
Faber said the Under-18 team’s schedule that featured games against 17 college programs and the bulk against USHL teams will help ease his transition to the Gophers.
“Just knowing what the pace is like and knowing how big of a step it is from the USHL to college,” he said. “That place is top-notch, and it’s set me up to be successful these next few years.”