Gianni Fairbrother returned to WHL action on the weekend, appearing in Everett’s two one-goal wins over Kamloops`and Spokane, and he was a welcome addition.
Everett coaches made the wise decision not to put all of their eggs in one basket, matching Fairbrother with a partner other than Wyatte Wylie. Two of the elite blueliners in the league, each played at least 25 minutes, but did get to play together in key situations on power plays, penalty kills and, at the end of each game, protecting leads.
In fact; Fairbother and Wylie did not leave the ice in the final two minutes last night (the game before they were on the ice for the final 90 seconds preserving the win) despite several opportunities to change as Everett held on to complete the weekend sweep. What was perhaps most impressive was that Fairbrother still had the energy to knock down two Spokane forwards in front of the net with one hit in the game’s finals seconds. That he was able to muster up the energy to do so despite being spent is a clear indication of his strength and stamina.
Fairbrother’s strength was on display throughout the contest, especially when he was pitted in a fight against Jake McGrew at the end of the first period that ended rather quickly with a one-punch knockdown. McGrew lay on the ice for several minutes, and never returned to the contest.
One of the many reasons Timmins and his staff considered Fairbrother to be a top-50 prospect last year was his grit. He stood up for a teammate versus a 6-6 opponent last year and won the fight. Timmins was at that game, and left impressed with both his character and toughness. He was right….Fairbrother is tough.
For the second-straight game, Fairbrother picked up an assist, but it was his solid defensive play that was most impressive. He rarely turns over the puck or gets caught out of position, thwarting rush after rush by Kamloops and Spokane forwards. His strength and skating ability make him extremely difficult to beat at the junior level. Add in his puck skills, grit and hard point shot, and he offers a pretty well-rounded package.
Ottawa 67’s coach Andre Tourigny went out of his way to praise Fairbrother at the rookie tournament, and with good reason, as he was a standout. Tourigny has a lot of sway in who gets invited to World Junior camps as he has been an integral part of Hockey Canada junior events the past few years, so it would not an impossibility to see Fairbrother ended up getting an invite to the December WJC camp if he puts up notable point totals.