Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Faber may be the second U.S. Development Program defender off the board in October.
Up next in my series of profiles on the 2020 NHL Entry Draft class is a defender from the U.S. National Team Development Program. Believe it or not, there are some players behind Jake Sanderson in the U.S. lineup. Although Faber may be a project who takes his time in the collegiate route, he could be a nice find for an organization on day two of the draft.
Previous profiles of entry draft prospects can be found above, as well as my initial top-31 ranking of eligible prospects.
Brock Faber – D
U.S. National Team Development Program [USHL] – 18 – Maple Grove, Minnesota
Faber is coming from a U.S. Development Program class that’s significantly less heralded than the 2019 group that dominated day one the NHL Entry Draft. In fact, it’s possible just one member of this year’s U18 team gets selected in the first round. But that’s not to suggest there aren’t legitimate prospects on this team like Faber.
His offensive numbers aren’t flashy. 12 points in 46 games is just fourth-best on the team’s blue line. Faber’s potential comes from his puck-moving skill; watch any U.S. game from last season and you probably wouldn’t see more controlled transitions from any other player. His possession play is key to pushing the pace up ice toward the offensive zone, helping Faber finish the 2019-20 season with a 14.08% goals-for rate relative to his teammates—second best among USHL draft-eligible defenders.
I’ve stressed Faber’s transition ability enough, so I won’t waste too many words before diving into the game tape. But I can’t stress enough how important this skill is. As the NHL grows faster and faster, defenders who can push the pace from the back end, with possession, are essential. What’s even more notable is someone his age (he turned 18 just a couple of weeks ago) being able to execute this skill with his head up ice consistently.
In this play, Faber (#14) already has his eyes up ice as he carves around the net with the puck. Cedar Rapids pressures this play well, and Faber knows he’s being forced into a decision. Regardless, he remains patient with the puck, holding until he connects a zone exit pass at the last second. In an ideal world, his winger would keep his feet moving instead of backing into the neutral zone.
Again, notice how the second he turns with the puck, Faber has eyes up ice. He uses solid crossover steps to accelerate into a zone exit and is able to push back against the defender’s gap with powerful strides through the neutral zone.
On defense, Faber can be conservative in holding the blue line—which I like—as opponents prepare for a breakout. In this clip above, he’s able to read that breakout pass well and utilize those crossover steps to pinch off the puck-carrier and drive him into the corner. You’ll notice his pivot step seems a bit slow. It’s a minor concern I have, but I think it’s more of a timing issue than a strength one.
Here’s another example of his gap control skills. The Cedar Rapids player is attacking the zone on the opposite side Faber is pivoting to. But, after quickly transitioning, notice the power Faber generates from crossing over with his back foot to cut off a potential shooting lane.
On this play, I won’t fault Faber for allowing a goal on a three-on-one where he trips up when defending the pass. But while I appreciate the gap he has created between forwards one and two, he wastes too much energy moving laterally against an oncoming rush. I’d like to see him backed up a bit more so his stick is in the passing lane just after the blue line.
In front of the net, I think Faber is a smart player. There are legitimate concerns shown above about how he sacrifices his position to a screening opponent, but one little-noticed skill I do appreciate is recognizing when to change strategy. If you’re attempting to move a screen while the shot comes, you’re likely making things worse for your goalie. If you can’t dispose of a net-front opponent in time, switch to limiting their rebound abilities (i.e. stick checks) as Faber does above.
I can very easily see Faber growing into a more lethal offensive player at the University of Minnesota in the coming years, especially since some of the instinct is already in place. In this clip, I love the patience Faber demonstrates with the puck. He’s got a great ability to lead his teammates to the puck and won’t always rely on traditional tape-to-tape passes to make a play.
Faber has good speed to join the rush when he decides, and can drive into open space while mapping out the play with his head up. Once again, his patience pays off in scoring in the clip above.
Faber by no means will graduate to be a franchise defender, but I see potential for a solid top-four player here that’s a skillful special teams addition a few years down the line.
Expected Pick Range
Colin Cudmore (@CudmoreColin) over at silversevensens.com has done remarkable work compiling draft rankings and establishing an ‘Expected Pick Range’ from a variety of different sources. You can read about his methodology here, track the compiled rankings here, and use his data viz (embedded below) here.
Faber’s Expected Pick Range: #36 to #98 – 2nd to 4th Round
Faber has been a late entry to many draft lists this season, only popping into the first three rounds in the spring. Although his expected pick range reaches all the way into round four, I’ve got Faber ranked 44th on my latest 2020 NHL Entry Draft board. I think he’s more likely a second-round pick come October.