That’s right, everybody. Development camp may be over, but we’re still talking about the kids. And we’ve talked about him in bits and bursts throughout our coverage, but Joel Farabee had such a striking run that we just have to give him a little bit more of our time. Let’s get right into the breakdown.
What needs some work?
Because, as you know, we’re a bunch of negative Nancys over here, let’s start by getting a little critical. What’s Farabee going to have to improve before he makes the jump to the next level?
The first and perhaps foremost piece is also one of the more obvious: size. We’ve harped all through camp about how he’s thin, how he needs to bulk up in a big way, and we need to harp on it just a little bit more. And maybe he’ll always have something of a slender looking build (a la Mitch Marner) - it’s too soon to tell - but he needs to put on some weight and get stronger. He’s still only 18 years old, so we don’t fault him for needing to grow a bit, just note that it’s something that needs to come along.
And this carries over to the adjacent physicality of his game—we’ll also need to see him use this to get stronger in puck battles along the boards. He wasn’t exactly getting completely bullied in this area, but you could see the strength disparity in flashes.
But this is also just us talking. The kids did a lot of work over the course of the week, honing their skills and identifying their weaknesses. So what has Farabee identified as the piece he most needs to focus on? “Probably just getting the puck off quick,” he says, “quick release, protecting the puck, is the biggest thing we’ve been working on. So I’m just trying to incorporate that into my game, and that’ll help me for next season.”
And this is an interesting note because, well, we’re about to get to it.
What’s there to like?
So I guess you could call that a segue. We’re talking about the good things now. And you can probably guess where we’re going with this next.
That’s right. That shot that Farabee says needs some work is already pretty sweet. In fact, it was one of the first pieces of his game that really flashed at the start of camp.
Call it an adjustment curve, but he got off to a bit of a shaky start to camp. You can look at him on the surface and say that he’s an undersized 18 year old kid coming into a camp with a group of more advanced players, some of whom have pro experience under their belts already, and in the beginning, he looked it. We saw raw skill, but he wasn’t winning as many battles as we’d have liked to see, and consistency was a concern. But as the week went on, with each passing session he started to look more confident. And that’s when he started to run the tables. His shot was something of a centerpiece to that.
In the 3-on-3 tournament, he was one of the clearest standouts on his team. His skating and edgework are pluses, and gave him a look of solid mobility, even on the half-ice playing surface. He also flexed that quick and accurate shot—he picked up four goals across the tournament, and at least three of them came from him picking the top corners on Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom. And, admittedly, that’s a small sample, but that doesn’t seem like an easy feat. Those guys are pretty good.
But just as striking is how elusive he is when he gets a hold of the puck. He’s liable to get pushed around a little bit, but that’s only if he gets caught. We saw it in one of the 1-on-1 puck control drills, where it looked like he was getting out-muscled by Wyatt Kalynuk and would lose the battle. But then, one kick cut later and he was away, and firing off an absolute laser of a shot on goal and in. Just like that.
So, we expect to see puck control to improve as he gets stronger, but just as useful is how he’s learned to more or less circumvent the size disparity. Like we hinted at earlier: you can’t be beat on strength if you can’t be caught in the first place.
Also, our final thing to like: he’s taking a summer class at BU. It’s Intro to Archeology. And that’s incredible.
Where’s he going?
Boston University, to get really specific. Oh, that’s not what we meant. We got a little too literal. My bad.
Maybe the better way to phrase that is “given what we’ve seen, where do we see him going, what can we expect, how excited should we be?” but that’s a little clunky. So you can forgive the mislead.
To close this out, we’ll answer that last piece first: we should be pretty dang excited. First camps can be rough for a lot of players, but Farabee took it in stride and gave us glimpses of an already very high skill level that’s only going to keep improving. He’ll be playing in college this year, and getting immersed in tougher competition in an already tough division, and we can hope or expect that he’ll take this in stride too, and keep building on that strong foundation.
He may not be quite NHL ready just yet, but given some improvement in the right areas, he might not bee too far away, either.
So, I’ll reiterate: there’s a lot to be excited about.