July 1, 2016
For British Columbia hockey fans, the big news at this year’s NHL entry draft was the selection of three BCHL players in the first round, including two teammates from the Penticton Vees.
Center Tyson Jost went #10 to Colorado Avalanche, while teammate Dante Fabbro, a D-man, went 17th to Nashville Predators.
The Chilliwack Chiefs’ Dennis Cholowski, another defenceman, was selected 20th overall by the Detroit Red Wings, in a move that involved the Pavel Datsyuk trade.
Jost, an 18-year-old originally from St. Albert, moved to the Okanagan as a bantam and played at the Pursuit of Excellence in Kelowna for two years, and then with the Okanagan Rockets for first year Major Midget, scoring 44-44-88 in 36 games.
Jost was selected seventh overall in the 2013 WHL bantam draft by Everett, but elected to keep his US college options open with the BCHL (the NCAA considers the rival Western Hockey League a pro league, which makes WHL players ineligible for US College play). He is committed to the University of North Dakota and is expected to play there next season.
Jost was named captain last season for the Vees and responded by scoring nearly a goal-per-game and more than two points-per-game overall.
He has also produced an impressive international resume, playing on Canada’s U17 and U18 teams the past two seasons, scoring 6G-9A in seven games at the WJC18 this year.
In an interview with NHL.com, Jost said he was excited to head to North Dakota for the coming season.
“I’m so excited to go there and try to make it back-to-back national championships. [College] is a route that a lot more people are pursuing, something that I have a lot of passion for. It’s going to be really huge for me next year. I’m going to develop as a person and a player.
“I really think North Dakota can do that for me. You look at the numbers that they have with putting people in the NHL, I think it’s 15 percent. No other junior team has that. Guys like Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) went there, Zach Parise(Minnesota Wild), Travis Zajac (New Jersey Devils) … those are some pretty high-end players. I hope I can add my name to that list.”
Avalanche General Manager, Joe Sakic, a Burnaby native who had 625 goals and 1,641 points in 1,378 NHL games, said Jost is “probably more of a complete player than I was” at the same age. “I was more of the offensive guy. I learned how to be better defensively, but he plays both ends, a 200-foot game. He can score goals, he’s got great vision. His compete level all over the ice is what everybody’s going to be excited about.
“Everywhere he’s gone he’s been a leader. Just by listening to him talk, he commands a lot of respect. He’s just a natural leader. He’s captain material.”
Jost first heard of Sakic while being coached by his grandfather, Jim Jost, who got emotional after hearing Tyson’s name called at First Niagara Center.
“He’s a player that my Gramp would always tell me, ‘I want you to shoot the puck like Joe Sakic does,'” he said. “My Gramp would always take me out to outdoor rinks in St. Albert (Alberta). I remember him always saying, ‘I want you to play like Joe Sakic.’ I kind of always had that little vision in the back of my mind.”
Fabbro hails from Coquitlam, and played minor hockey at the Burnaby Winter Club from atom through bantam. He was captain in his final year of bantam, scoring 78 points in 58 games, including 25 goals.
He played one season with the NW Giants of the BC Major Midget League before joining the Vees. He was drafted 8th overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, but like Jost, elected to play BCHL to retain his NCAA eligibility. He is committed to Boston University for the coming season.
Fabbro, who was named the 2016 Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top defenseman in 2015-16, says he couldn’t have been happier to join Nashville.
“I grew up loving the Preds. It’s definitely a special moment for me and my family. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of this organization, and hopefully in the future I can make an impact.”
Predators General Manager David Poile says the team had Fabbro rated in their top 17 and got exactly what they wanted in the 6-0, 189-pound blueliner.
“He’s a good, all-around defenseman who plays in all situations,” Poile said. “This should be a guy who, if he develops the way we feel that he should, in the next few years, he should be a top four defensemen and he should play in all situations. We’re not in any hurry to have to replace our current four, but two or three or four years down the road, this could be the type of guy who would be perfect to move into our lineup.”
Fabbro describes himself as a two-way defenseman and has committed to Boston University for the fall of 2016. He lists Shea Weber as his favorite player and says he tries to model his game after the Preds captain; both players hail from British Columbia, not too far from Vancouver, the same city center Ryan Johansen calls home. Johansen, who was on the Draft stage when the Preds selected Fabbro (Johansen’s brother Lucas was later picked 28th overall by the Washington Capitals), is also from Vancouver.
“It’s just an honor; it’s such a great organization, and to be drafted by the same team [Weber plays for], it’s definitely a cool moment for me. I know my family thinks the same thing,” Fabbro said. “I’m happy with this organization; what they did last year in the playoffs was pretty spectacular, so it’s a huge honor to be a part of this, and I’m looking forward to working hard and going to development camp.”
Not only were Poile and his staff impressed with Fabbro’s maturity on and off the ice, they are excited to see what he can do at the NCAA level and continue to develop into the defenseman they believe he can be. The Preds have seen some of their other prospects develop at Boston University, including forward Colin Wilson.
“His favorite player is Shea Weber, his favorite team is Nashville Predators; I think this is a pretty good fit,” Poile laughed.
In addition to his fondness for the team, Fabbro has two sisters who play soccer at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. If Fabbro is lucky enough to get the chance one day, they’ve already filled him in on what to expect inside Bridgestone Arena.
“My sisters go to school just outside Nashville, and they talk about how great the city is,” Fabbro said. “They ended up going to some games, and they said that it’s just an unbelievable atmosphere. Hopefully, someday I can be a part of that.”
Dennis Cholowski was selected 20th overall from the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Cholowski had 12 goals, 28 assists and 16 penalty minutes in 50 games last season. He finished first in postseason scoring by a defenceman, 4-11-15 in 20 games. He also won a gold medal for Canada at this year’s World Junior A Challenge.
Cholowski was a second-team All-BCHL All-Star, and is committed to play next season at Minnesota’s St. Cloud University in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Cholowski played for the Langley Eagles in PCAHA bantam hockey, and then moved to Abbotsford based Yale Hockey Academy E15 for first year midget in 2013-2014, before joining the Chiefs as a second year midget. Cholowski was selected 200th overall by the Prince George Cougars in the 2013 WHL draft. He was 5’6″, 126 pounds.
Todd Harkins, at the time a Prince George Cougars scout, called him “one of the most skilled defensemen in the draft” stating “he’s got great vision, is a slick skater and we are glad he was still around at this time”. Harkins is now PG’s General Manager.
Cholowski joined the Yale Hockey Academy Lions of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League for the 2013-14 season at 5’8″ and 141 pounds. Nevertheless he compiled 21 points in 19 games (including playoffs) helping lead the Lions to the CSSHL title in the leagues inaugural season. At seasons end, the 15-year-old was able to skate with the Chilliwack Chiefs and a half-dozen 20 year-olds for one game to complete his season and get a taste of the BCHL.
Red Wings general manager Holland told NBC Sports Network after announcing the pick at the draft in Buffalo. “”We need some defenseman. Our scouts are excited. He’s a great skater.He’s going to university for three or four years. We’ll see how he develops.
“We’ve taken a lot of forwards the last few years and we need to get some defensemen. Love that he can really skate. Love that we can tuck him away in college.”